Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 2002: #4 The Decemberists “The legionnaire’s lament”

<< #5    |    #3 >>

“I’m a legionnaire, camel in disrepair, hoping for a Frigidaire to come passing by.”

And so begins yet another great track off The Decemberists’ debut album, “Castaways and cutouts”*. I got into this album and the following year’s sophomore album simultaneously, perhaps sometime in 2004, after reading about them in my favourite indie music magazine ‘Under the radar’.

I remember being immediately blown away by the songwriting of Colin Meloy. Being a word geek myself, I loved the wordplay and use of archaic terms and thought it hilarious that I found myself reaching for the dictionary when listening to the lyrics of a pop song, indie or not. But it was not just the choice of words that won me over. It was how Meloy employed them, creating worlds and weaving tales, vivid and imaginative and just so much fun. And then there was the music, indie rock with a folk rock flavour, sampling music from around the world, and not just evoking that of today, but from different points in time throughout history.

The Decemberists have gone on to make eight studio albums in total and a handful of EPs, and successfully navigated the jump from indie to the majors without losing an ounce of what made them great. Every one of their songs is an adventure and you would be hard-pressed to tell me that they are one of those bands whose songs all sound the same.

“The legionnaire’s lament”, despite its title, is an upbeat number. It was the song that first hooked my wife Victoria to the group and is one to which we both love to sing along. And though the words can be esoteric and the specific experience unfamiliar – that of a French Foreign Legion soldier stranded in the desert, his plane shot down in battle in a war over a hundred years ago – the sentiment of missing his love and his home is universal and instantly recognizable.

“If only some rain would fall on the houses and the boulevards and the sidewalk bagatelles (it’s like a dream). With the roar of cars and the lolling of the cafe bars and the sweetly sleeping sweeping of the Seine. Lord I don’t know if I’ll ever be back again.”

Our protagonist is faithfully represented by an angry and forceful strum on the acoustic, the mirage of a jaunty drum beat and playful electric guitar lick, but what really places you in the tune and perfects the feeling of homesickness for Paris is the frolicking accordion. So good.

*”July July” from this same album appeared earlier, at number nineteen, on this list.

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

Categories
Playlists

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”.

Categories
Tunes

100 best covers: #63 Colin Meloy “Everyday is like sunday”

<< #64    |    #62 >>

Morrissey is quite the polarizing figure, perhaps one of the most polarizing in the modern rock era. Like many, I love the part he played leading The Smiths, much of his early solo work, and even some of the later music he released under his own name. However, with every comment and miscue and cancelled tour, it’s getting harder for me to separate the artist from his art. And knowing what I know of Colin Meloy, having an inkling on his political stances, and my general feeling that he is an excellent human being, I sometimes wonder what his own thoughts are on Morrissey, one of his heroes and huge influences on his own music. But perhaps that mental leap happened too quickly, so let me backtrack.

The year following the release of The Decemberists’ third album, “Picaresque”*, frontman Colin Meloy self-released his own first solo recording. It was a six-song EP of covers of songs, the first of a series of similar EPs, each shining a spotlight on one of his favourite artists, that Meloy would issue and sell only at his solo shows. These EPs were aptly called, in reverse order from the date of release: “Colin Meloy sings The Kinks”, “Colin Meloy sings Sam Cooke”, “Colin Meloy sings Shirley Collins”, and of course, “Colin Meloy sings Morrissey”.

The six songs on this last were made up mostly of B-sides or lesser known singles by the master of maudlin but the final track was a certain very well-known single. Indeed, “Every day is like sunday” was the second ever single released by Morrissey after the dissolution of The Smiths and appeared as the third track on his solo debut album. It is one of my own favourite tracks, out of all of his solo output, and yet I can’t seem to help but love Colin Meloy’s cover just that much more.

The original is quite polished, full band and sweet production, not that there’s anything wrong with that. On this song, however, where there is an inherent sadness and solitude and fear, I think Colin Meloy hammers the nail in further with his stripped down, solitary version. He starts the proceedings sounding lonely and forlorn, just strumming on the acoustic and instilling Morrissey’s lyrics with more passion and precision than his hero, and by the end, you can’t help but feel his angst and moral outrage at the situation hinted at in the lyrics.

Indeed, the lyrics feel almost prophetic now, given the current situation we all now find ourselves in, but really, they only ring true, and don’t feel touristic, if played through the lens of Colin Meloy’s cover.

Disagree with me, I dare you.

Cover:

The original:

*The now iconic album by the indie folk band is the one that would end up being their last as an honest-to-goodness indie band,

For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.