Playlist: The first day of Spring

Well, we made it. It’s the first day of Spring.

Yeah, this past winter has felt like an eternity but if I am being honest, it hasn’t even been that bad of a winter in these parts. It was relatively mild and we suffered through very few snowstorms, up until February, when, of course, all that went out the window. Even still, we’ve been seeing more mild weather again and the mounds of the white stuff have all but melted away.

And yet… and yet… it still felt like a long winter, didn’t it?

Well, it is officially over as of today. Mother nature be damned. And we are going to celebrate with a new playlist, the first of four seasonal themed mixes that I have planned for this year, all based on a theory my good friend Andrew Rodriguez has oft posited: there are certain songs that just “feel” like a given season.

Indeed, these are 25 songs that, even if not overtly Spring themed, they at least hint or evoke that certain mood. The playlist follows a chronological path, from the tentative first steps to the splashes in the rain puddles of April, from the traipsing through meadows of flowers to finally, a bit of a dance into June and the excitement of the summer beyond. Unfortunately, the song I really wanted to start this mix off with, The Gandharvas’ “The first day of Spring”, is not actually available on Spotify but I wanted to tip my hat to it nonetheless and replaced it with a similarly named track by Noah and The Whale.

Other highlights on this mix include:

    • “April fools”, the first track I ever heard by Canadian singer/songwriter, Rufus Wainwright, and it’s a whimsical ditty
    • “Rain”, a hazy number by The Clientele that evokes raindrops hitting against a steamed up window
    • Emily Haines and Metric covering the Lou Reed classic, “Perfect day”, no other explanation necessary
    • “June hymn”, off The Decemberists’ pastoral sixth album is a call for us all to go out into the woods and breathe deeply
    • And of course, “Spring and by summer fall”, is a ray of sunshine by Blonde Redhead that leads us off into the new season

For those who don’t use Spotify or if the embedded playlist below doesn’t work for you, here is the entire playlist (complete with YouTube links) as I’ve created it:

      1. Noah and the Whale “The first days of Spring”
      2. Kurt Vile “Wakin on a pretty day”
      3. Rufus Wainwright “April fools”
      4. Fontaines D.C. “Oh such a Spring”
      5. Blind Melon “No rain”
      6. The Jesus and Mary Chain “April skies”
      7. Frank Turner “The opening act of Spring”
      8. The Clientele “Rain”
      9. Ex Cops “Spring break (birthday song)”
      10. Engineers “Come in out of the rain”
      11. Sea Wolf “Dew in the grass”
      12. Camera Obscura “Honey in the sun”
      13. Crocodiles “Endless flowers”
      14. Arcade Fire “Month of May”
      15. Metric “Perfect day”
      16. Neutral Milk Hotel “King of carrot flowers, pt. 1”
      17. Cults “Go outside”
      18. Sam Roberts Band “Spring fever”
      19. Dum Dum Girls “Trees and flowers”
      20. The Decemberists “June hymn”
      21. Hey Rosetta! “Yer Spring”
      22. Unkle Bob “Birds and the bees”
      23. U2 “Beautiful day”
      24. The Like “June gloom”
      25. Blonde Redhead “Spring and by Summer Fall”

And as I’ve said before, I’ll say again: Wherever you are in the world, I hope you are safe and continue to be well. Until next time, enjoy the tunes.

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


Best albums of 2007: #3 The Clientele “God save The Clientele”

Some might remember The Clientele as the purveyors of the surprise #1 album in my Best albums of 2017 back in December. Well, I’ve been loving on this London-based indie pop band for quite some time.

My first encounter with them was their second album, 2003’s “The violet hour”, a reverb-drenched, 60s psych influenced album. They expanded their sound some with string arrangements on “Strange geometry“ in 2005 and following a tour in 2006, added violinist/keyboard player, Mel Draisey to the fold, ensuring more lovely strings for future recordings. “God save The Clientele” does not disappoint in this regard, also including the use of pedal steel and slide guitar to really take their already beautifully full sound even further.

Recorded in the States, where they oddly seem to be more popular than they are in their home country, “God Save The Clientele” is notable among all their albums up to this point for having some honest to goodness and obviously upbeat pop numbers. It initially took me aback, hearing something breathily sung by frontman Alasdair MacLean that I might be able to dance to. Incidentally, it was while The Clientele were on support for this album in the spring of 2007 that I got to see them live for the first time with my good friend Jez, another big fan of the group. And though we didn’t dance, there was plenty to enjoy about the set.

For those that enjoy delicate and lilting psychedelic pop, “God Save The Clientele” might just be your thing. I highly recommend giving them a shot and you could do worse than to start with one of my three picks for you below.

“Winter on Victoria Street”: As I mentioned above, there were some obvious pop numbers on this album and though they were a bit of a surprise, I would count them among my favourites on the album, and this one is included. The bopping piano meander provides the song its structure and both a rhythm and a melody for MacLean to “da da da” along to. Then, he loops his own vocals back so that he is singing in round with himself, a fun effect that reflects the “haunting” theme in the lyrics, a malevolence outside the house where he is trying to “get off” with a girl. Whoops.

“Here comes the phantom”:  Speaking of boppy numbers, the opening tune on the album almost has a “Sweet Caroline” feel, guitars and peppy drums marching in line. And in between such synchronized rhythms are string flourishes that flit and flutter like singing birds. It all feels idyllic and full of sunshine, not at all resembling the crime fighting superhero stories hinted at in the title. Indeed, the lyrics are all wind in the leaves and summer sun and picking flowers. Lovely stuff.

“Bookshop casanova”: Ah yes. Here’s the song. One of the best song titles ever and very likely my favourite out of all The Clientele’s tunes. It’s that ticky-tack tapping on the cymbal and the driving guitar that really does it, and yes, I just said driving guitar in relation to Alasdair MacLean and company. Then, there’s the lovely touch by Mel Draisey’s violin and a wonderful song becomes perfection. And really at its core, the song is about one bookshop clerk attempting seduce another, love in the quietest and most unassuming of places. “Now see that dying summer moon, it’s shining just for me and you.” What a nice thought.

For the rest of the albums in this list, check out my Best Albums page here.


Best albums of 2017: #1 The Clientele “Music for the age of miracles”

Those of you who have been following along and paying close attention will notice that each of my top three albums of the year could be considered comeback albums of a sort. The National’s “Sleep well beast” at number three was their first album in four years, which isn’t a long time when you consider the album at number two was Slowdive’s first in 22 years, but in this day and age, The National’s inactivity felt like a hiatus nonetheless. And of course, the span between Clientele’s last album and this year’s “Music for the age of miracles”, at 9 years (8 years, if you count the mini-album “Minotaur”), pales in comparison with Slowdive’s too.

That there are all these ‘comeback’ albums at the top of my list could say something about my tastes in music and might suggest that I tend towards nostalgia when making my picks. However, there are a bunch of “comeback” albums that are not on this list that could also easily slide into the nostalgia category. No. These three are all fine albums, by some of my favourite bands, and the fact that they didn’t disappoint, given the lofty expectations heaped upon them as soon as they were announced, is a good part of the reason they are ranked so high.

The Clientele has been one of my favourite bands since I first heard their 2003 album, “The violet hour”. Between then and their announced hiatus in 2011, they put out a string of beautiful, and delicate releases that slanted towards 60s psychedelia. And never did creative force, Alasdair MacLean allow his group to stray from this course. But don’t mistake this as stagnation, as my friend Andrew Rodriguez did when he stated that all their albums sounded the same. When listened from end to end, you can definitely hear the progression in their sound but you will always recognize them as The Clientele.

When I purchased the record from my local record store Compact Music, Tyler, my favourite vinyl pusher, noted the album with a grin and said it was a good one. He used all the usual adjectives dragged out when describing their music, but assured me that when that “hazy, epic tune backing a spoken word monologue” (“The museum of fog”) came on, he said to himself, “oh yeah… these guys”. And he nodded slowly in a way that suggested he was hearing the song again in his head at that very moment.

When I put on “Music for the age of miracles” for my own first listen, it didn’t disappoint at all. It was like returning home and sitting in your favourite comfy chair and watching the greatest movie you’ve never seen before but with all your favourite actors and characters. Familiar yet mind blowing and new. For those new to The Clientele, prepare yourself for a heavenly backdrop that will make you forget whatever menial task you are performing and for your face to hurt from the smile that will be permanently pasted there the whole while. It’s an album rammed full of beautiful songs that beg for repeat listens but here are the three I’ve picked for you to sample from. Enjoy.

“Everything you see tonight is different from itself”: This first track here definitely backs up my point on the band’s evolution. I could be wrong but I don’t remember drum machines being Clientele tropes, nor do I associate horns too much with their music. At six and half minutes, “Everything you see tonight is different from itself” is as much of a mouthful as its name, the length giving itself space to grow and yes, evolve from one thing to the next. The end sounding nothing like the beginning. Heady stuff.

“Lunar days”: After the intro that is reminiscent of children’s windup toys or a midway carousel, “Lunar days” settles into something that more resembles The Clientele we know and love. Gentle guitar plucking piggyback on peppy but understated snare and rim drumming, the strings tease, and Alasdair MacLean’s breathy vocals lilt upon them, like a falling leave upon the breeze. It’s all so easy and free that you feel you could easily just step back into childhood in the late summer, replaying the same dog days, never to return to school.

“Everyone you meet”: Here were are! A pop number! The melody even actually reminds me oddly of something Neil Diamond might have sung. There’s horns and strings and peppy drumming and of course, MacLean’s vocals that are impossible not to love here. He actually sounds like he might be smiling as he sings them. Interesting, then, that he appears to be singing about depression “Everyone you meet breathes low, moving soft and slow, blue very blue. I can’t sleep at night, I don’t know what to do.” I feel like maybe he should just listen to more of his own music. So beautiful.

For the rest of the albums in this list, check out my Best Albums page here.