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Tunes

Best tunes of 2011: #30 Dawes “A little bit of everything”

#29 >>

We kickstart off this new series on my favourite tunes of 2011 with a song for those who like their songs with a side of sentimental. Yes. As much as I like my alt-rock and shoegaze, I do have my sappy side, obviously to a point. I enjoy sunsets and walks by the river and romantic comedies. But let’s not carried away.

This particular song stuck out to me when I was listening to Dawes’ sophomore album, “Nothing is wrong”, in preparation for catching them live at the 2011 edition of Ottawa Bluesfest. In fact, I distinctly remember taking the bus home after one of the earlier nights during the festival and “A little bit of everything” begged repeat listens, over and over, right up to the moment I stepped on to my front porch. Indeed, I really liked their sound from the moment I first heard them, despite it not being something I typically invest a lot of time in. They’ve been described as “Laurel Canyon” folk rock, whatever that means. I just recognized a lot of classic rock bands in their songs, some CSNY here, some The Band there. The music is welcoming and inclusive.

“A little bit of everything” is a ballad that starts off with Tay Strathairn’s quiet piano accompanying Taylor Goldsmith’s vocals and slowly the rest of the instruments join in. There are three verses, each laying out a different scenario: a man explaining to a police officer why he’s decided to jump off a bridge, an old man at a buffet line suddenly reexamining his life, and a bride-to-be explaining to her fiancé why she is stressing herself out planning their upcoming nuptials. (It might have been this last that struck a chord with me, since my wife and I had just been married two years prior.) Each of these tales isn’t really a definite explanation, more of a reproach and an embrace of life. It’s a little bit of everything.

“Oh, it’s a little bit of everything,
It’s the matador and the bull,
It’s the suggested daily dosage,
It is the red moon when it’s full.
All these psychics and these doctors,
They’re all right and they’re all wrong,
It’s like trying to make out every word,
When they should simply hum along,
It’s not some message written in the dark,
Or some truth that no one’s seen,
It’s a little bit of everything.”

By the time Goldsmith gets to this final verse, the song quiets right back down to him and the keys just before the drums come back in for that fist-punching, anthemic exclamation mark. Yeah, I know. I just can’t help myself.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2011 list, click here.

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Albums

Best albums of 1997: The honourable mentions (aka #10 through #6)

Happy Thursday! And welcome to the second installment of my Throwback Thursday (#tbt) best albums of the year series. For this one, we time travel back twenty years to 1997. Back to a time where I was one year removed from graduating with BA Honours from York University on a five year (yes, I took it slow) program. I was working part time at a tool rental store, spending plenty of quality time talking pretentious in the pubs, and I had just started into a relationship with Victoria, whom I’m still with and I’ve since married. So happy times indeed.

It also happens to be another great year for music and can easily be argued to be the best year ever for British Alternative Rock. Just think about it for a moment and you’ll realize I’m right, probably guess which are my top three albums, but perhaps not in the correct order. Britpop mania had reached its apex the year before and was already on the wane, more artists were trying to disassociate themselves with the term rather than buy in. So yeah, in 1997, it was more rock and less pop. However, North America’s (and likely the rest of the world’s) ears were still tuned in to Cool Britannia so British rock was all the rage on the radio and music video stations. I was in music heaven with all the great albums being released and as you’ll soon see, the majority of my faves were from – you guessed it – the British Isles.

So without further ado, below are the first five albums from my top ten and if you don’t know the trick by now, I will be featuring the top five, an album each Thursday, over the next five weeks. Enjoy the nostalgia ride with me.


#10 Cornershop “When I was born for the 7th time”

Third time was a charm for Tjinder Singh and his Cornershop. The band’s blend of Indian traditional, British rock, funk, and psychedelia hit home with the Britpop crowds at the time and has since influenced more than a few bands that I can think of (Hello, Elephant Stone). Then, Norman Cook remixed the song below and they exploded, the song in question waxing ubiquitous in the summer of 1997. As for the album, it’s quite eclectic and fun. You can certainly tell they were smoking quite a bit of something funny during its recording.

Gateway tune: Brimful of asha


#9 The Dandy Warhols “The Dandy Warhols come down”

I saw The Dandy Warhols open for The Charlatans in the fall of 1997 but I didn’t appreciate this, the album they were flogging at the time, until much, much later. Still, their live show was so good that I immediately picked up their next album, 2000’s “Thirteen tales of urban bohemia”, on release, which I loved and pushed me to continue to follow them and to re-examine their back catalogue. If you’ve seen the film “Dig”, you know that the band had its troubles at the time and despite the below song’s modicum of success, it would be their only flirtation with the mainstream. “Come down” is a noisy beast and a rollicking ride.

Gateway tune: Not if you were the last junkie on earth


#8 Teenage Fanclub “Songs from Northern Britain”

For years, I’ve called Teenage Fanclub the “Scottish Sloan” or likened Sloan to “the Canadian Teenage Fanclub”, depending on my audience. Both bands have multiple songwriters who sing their own songs but maintain a consistent sound, and that is a classic sounding guitar rock style with plenty of harmonies that somehow manages to sound completely original. The Fanclub’s sixth album was their most commercially successful, its name a joke around the idea that many people at the time considered them part of the Britpop scene. The album itself though was anything but a joke.

Gateway tune: Take the long way around


#7 The Mighty Mighty Bosstones “Let’s face it”

Boston’s own flirted with the mainstream and certainly achieved commercial success with their fifth studio album, “Let’s face it”, the band’s only certified platinum selling album. The eight-piece ‘skacore’ band toned down the ‘core and sweetened the ska and punk sound and found themselves a whole a new swarm of fans. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you can’t deny that this album cemented their place at the forefront of the 90s wave of ska punk. It’s brash and energetic and a hell of a lot of fun on the dance floor.

Gateway tune: The impression that I get


#6 Ocean Colour Scene “Marchin’ already”

Ocean Colour Scene followed up their breakthrough sophomore album with music cut very much from the same cloth. Often the tunes were those written well before recording but refreshed and brightened with slick studio production. They were rewarded by the buying public with their first number one, famously supplanting Oasis’s bloated third record, “Be here now”, an album that (*spoiler alert*) won’t be on this list. I really like the straightforward and honest trad rock of this and “Moseley shoals”, perhaps preferring “Marchin’ already” slightly over the former. Unfortunately, things steadily went south from here.

Gateway tune: Hundred mile high city


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

Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 2000: #13 Oasis “Go let it out”

<< #14    |    #12 >>

When you get as big as fast Oasis did, there’s bound to be a modicum of backlash, especially from the tastemaker set. We saw a similar phenomenon with Coldplay and more recently, with Mumford and Sons, but in the case of Oasis, they didn’t really do themselves any favours. The Gallagher brothers’ constant squabbling was much publicized in the music press, as were their outspokenness and snarky potshots at other bands. It’s like they couldn’t keep their mouths shut and it only got worse as their egos grew. This attitude also found its way into the studio with them. You only have to listen to the all the bombast and navel-gazing on “Be here now” for a point of reference.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love Oasis. Noel Gallagher is as great a songwriter as he is at repurposing hooks and melodies and Liam’s looks and attitude (when held in check) made him an all-star frontman. Their first two albums were brilliant rock and roll records but when it came to the third, I thought it all just way too much. Then, when “Standing on the shoulders of giants” was released in 2000, I didn’t even bother. I mean, just think about what that title means. I only finally listened to their fourth album in full close to a decade after it was released, just after the Gallagher brothers and the new look Oasis lured me back into the fold with albums five (“Heathen chemistry”) and six (“Don’t believe the truth”).

That doesn’t mean I never once heard “Go let it out” in the intervening months and years. How could I not? It was all over the radio, at the least it was on the only radio station I could stomach at the time: Toronto’s EDGE 102.1. My initial response was ambivalence. I didn’t hate it but I didn’t love it enough to make me want to check out the album. It has turned out to be a grower though and nowadays, it ranks up there with some of my favourite Oasis singles. It’s got that cracking drum sample that loops through the entire tune and due to the departure of both Bonehead and Guigsy, Noel does double duty here, providing both the muscular rhythm guitar and the fuzzy bass. Liam, meanwhile, is very present and provides his usual edge, a raw and raspy performance.

“Go let it out” is as stadium-friendly and anthemic as their other work during this period, yet it also feels somewhat restrained, at least as restrained as these guys could ever get (it’s almost two minutes shorter than the average song on “Be here now”). And yes, it has that raise your fist and pump it in the air kind of climax. Pure Oasis.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2000 list, click here.