Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Listomania! - 2002

Well, the old computer finally bit the dust. It was a faithful and loyal companion since early 2004, so I have no complaints. I have spent the last month recovering bookmarks, re-setting passwords and generally fine tuning this new beast. Those who know me understand that I have had a life-long love affair with the Detroit Red Wings. I haven't blogged that much about them, but this being the list for 2002, I decided this would be a good year for a little Wings talk. Why 2002 you ask? Well, I could have written about them as a preamble to the 1997 list, since that was their first Stanley Cup in my lifetime, ending 36 years of personal frustration. But, I have chosen to wait until now because it is my opinion that that edition of the club is among the top 5 NHL teams of all-time. Led by the greatest captain ever, Steve Yzerman, who was virtually playing on 1 leg, this collection of future Hall of Famers dominated the league from start to finish. Some of the superstars they added before the season were goaltender Dominik Hasek and forwards Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille, all certain Hall of Fame players. Already on the team were Yzerman, Chris Chelios, Segei Fedorov, Igor Larionov, Nick Lidstrom and Brendan Shanahan, along with some rookie named Pavel Datsyuk. I would argue that this was the greatest collection of talent ever on 1 team anywhere at any time. They finished first in the league in the regular season with 116 points and then marched through the playoffs defeating Vancouver in 6 games ( losing the first 2 and causing me severe anxiety), then St. Louis in 5 relatively painless games. Then came their arch rivals, Colorado, who took a 3 games to 2 lead by winning game 5 in |Detroit. It looked bad for my heroes, but they won in 7 games with back to back shutouts by Hasek, including a 7-0 waxing in game 7. The finals were an almost anti-climax, as they easily dispatched Carolina in 5 games. It would be the last game for the legendary coach, Scotty Bowman, who donned skates and paraded the Cup around for the last time. 2002 was actually the best sports year of my life, as my baseball team, the Anaheim Angels, won the World Series and my football team, the Oakland Raiders went to the Super Bowl, even though they lost to Tampa Bay in embarassing fashion. Amidst all the cheering, here's the music that I was digging:

Top 10 Of 2002

10. No One Knows - Queens Of The Stone Age

This is dirty-ass rock 'n' roll. From their 3rd album, Songs For The Deaf, this is a herky-jerky, grungy riff-fest. The drumming is provided by the Foo Fighters' frontman and former Nirvana stick-wielder Dave Grohl and he makes the most of it, banging out a machine gun-like array of rolls and beats. Singer/guitarist Josh Homme exudes his usual laid-back cool with his vocals. This album has a bit of a muted sound to it, which I can find annoying at times, but it works on this song, giving it an almost claustrophobic feel. "We get some rules to follow, that and this, these and those, no one knows." I think these lyrics were written by Martina's mom.....

9. Leafy Mysteries - Paul Weller

This album, Illumination, was my re-introduction to Weller. I had lost touch with him for a few years and had not liked much of his output since 1997's Heavy Soul. This song sees him coming out all hopeful, as if he were having a new awakening as well. The melody is gorgeous, his vocals have just the right amount of righteousness, and the guitars are chiming and melodic. He is still mining the Traffic back catalogue, but has added his own touch through his unmistakeable voice. Steve White lays down a fierce set of drum chops to add some flavour to the tune and all is well in the world again. "To a place I can lose myself, no time just somewhere else, with a face I can recognize. I forget sometimes, that’s always been here." Stop and smell the poses....

8. Stars Are Photomagnets - Hopeful Monster

It's 1979 again! This song is fantastic, all shimmering strings and awash in glorious synths. You can tap your foot, shake your hips, sing along - do your thing! In the breaks, there is even some lovely acoustic guitar, for those who long for that sound. So what am I saying? Yes, that's right! There is something for everyone, so dive in and revel in the wonders that this tune delivers! From Hopeful Monster's self-titled debut record, Jason Ball and friends have crafted an almost perfect Pop confection. Rarely have a singer's voice and the music paired together so seamlessly. Being lucky enough to know Jason, I have had the pleasure of sitting around a campfire and listening to his musical genius in the most intimate of settings, so I am biased. But you really owe it to yourself to give this guy a listen, so check it out. "Everything that's scattered will come home brand new and unused." Take me to your leader.....

7. Pounding - Doves

It is rare in music today that a band crafts a 2nd album that measures up to a much lauded debut, but Doves pull off that feat with The Last Broadcast. This song takes its title from the pounding backbeat that permeates the tune, a clever touch indeed. Vocalist Jimi Goodwin has such a feeling in his voice that is perfectly suited for putting across sadness and resignation, whilst ultimately finding the bright speck of hope within. These guys can write a beautiful melody such as this and layer it in waves of instruments to create such poignant sounds that never fail to move me. "I can't stand by and see you destroyed. I can't be here and watch you burn up." There's no need to fear, Jimi from Doves is here.........

6. Obstacle 1 - Interpol

OK, let's play spot the influences! Well, being that they are from NYC, I hear Lou Reed in the deadpan vocals. U.K. band Wire can be heard in the kinetic paranoia of the guitars. The drums bring to mind the bang and crash of Mel Gaynor of latter-day Simple Minds and the bass undulates up and down the scale like the best of Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers. This song is from their brilliant debut Turn On The Bright Lights, which may be the best album of 2002. This is a big favourite song on our deck in the summertime. "Her stories are boring and stuff.
She's always calling my bluff. She puts the weights into my little heart and she gets in my room and she takes it apart." Ahh, love....

5. I've Changed My Number - Plush

This band is the brainchild of one Liam Hayes. He sings, writes, produces and plays most of the instruments on this album, their 4th titled Fed. This is a cornucopia of styles, with a huge Chicago-style horn section, wah-wah guitar licks and weird tempo changes. The production is big and bold and Hayes' voice is mixed to be heard above all the din. I really like this song for the interweaving of genres though and it is a great sunny day tune. "How can you spend so much time being depressing? I just won't carry on my whole life guessing." Is it bigger than a bread basket?

4. Nuclear - Ryan Adams

From his 3rd album, Demolition, this song has twangy guitar leads running over a muscular bassline, with Adams' now familiar voice with its gravelly rasp warbling about going "nuclear." I adore his songwriting, that feel he has that always draws me in, and this song has that effect on me too. You can sing along, or play air guitar or drums because one cannot evade its charms. while I consider Demolition to be his weakest album, I really love this song. "When I saw her, the Yankees lost to the Braves. Sentimental geek, shut up and go to sleep." Well Ryan, you must have only seen her once then.....

3. The Way We Get By - Spoon

This song is from their 4th album Kill The Moonlight. It was to bring this Austin, TX band a larger audience, which was much deserved. This song is so smart and edgy, with a piano reminiscent of Madness and a true singalong chorus. One can imagine people in pubs the world over crooning along with singer Britt Daniels to this insanely catchy tune. The instrumentation is sparse and different in the way it is employed. One keeps waiting for them to bust loose, but the band keeps it close to the vest. "We go out in stormy weather, we rarely practice discern. We make love to some weird sin, we seek out the taciturn." Brilliant.

2. It's A Good Life If You Don't Weaken - The Tragically Hip

This is the Hip's best song. Maybe not for you, dear reader. But, it is for me. It is exquisite in its beauty, all quiet, circular guitars and Gord Downie putting across another killer lyric as only he can. I mean who uses lines like "full of countervailing woes" in a song? He does. And he wants you to know that he is clever and that is perfectly OK with me too. I am touched by the spirit and general mood of this song every time I hear it. This is the sound of a band who, while they may well be past their best before date, hit the damn ball right out of the park this time. "Let's swear that we will get with the times, in a current heath to stay. Let's get friendship right, get life day-to-day." Amen brother Gord.....

1. Ashes Of American Flags - Wilco

Taken from their controversial and much ballyhooed 4th album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, this amazing song has it all. It has a Woody Guthrie aura to it, like it was written on a boxcar to nowhere. There is fantastic slide guitar and haunting acoustic guitar, which provide the perfect setting for Jeff Tweedy's plaintive vocal about being a paranoid, but beautiful, loser. The best song on a great album and one that I could play over and over again and not lose its magic. If you get a chance, watch the documentary I Am Trying To Break Your Heart which chronicles the band's trials and tribulations during the making of this record. "I'm down on my hands and knees
every time a doorbell rings. I shake like a toothache when I hear myself sing. All my lies are only wishes, I know I would die if I could come back new." Wow......

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Listomania! - 2001

2001 was not a space odyssey. Bush Junior became President in the States and inaugurated a new era of mean-spirited smugness, especially after September 11. I could delve deeper into my feelings about these events, but I would not only bore you the reader, but myself as well. This being a music blog, I'll try to keep it on topic. Sorry for the lack of posts lately, but I've been doing 2-a-days at the dog park since we became a 2-car home again and haven't felt all that inspired to post. Not to worry, I feel fine - it's just that I despise typing and it requires about 4 hours for me to do 1 post. so, today I decided to quit being such a procrastinator and get this thing going again. Here's what I was listening to while Bush was plotting world domination:

Top 10 Of 2001

10. Plug-In Baby - Muse

This song rocks hard. Taken from this English band's 2nd album, Origin Of Symmetry, it is a melodic but fierce tune, dominated by the falsetto voice and crazy guitar sonics of leader Matthew Bellamy. I love this song and I like a lot of their songs, but they can grate on me a bit. I find the sound they have unique, but also quite repetitive. This tune has a driving urgency to it that charges up one's blood when listening, causing some thrashing and flailing of limbs. It is heavy on gimmicks and effects and must be hard to reproduce live, but it does sound great when turned up loud. "My plug-in baby crucifies my enemies, when I'm tired of giving." This machine kills fascists.....

9. Lowdown - My Morning Jacket

This band's 2nd album, At Dawn, solidified them as a real force in modern music. Their sound is often described as Alt.-Country or Jam Band, but they really have no specific sound. There are touchstones in their songs, such as singer Jim James' distinctive tenor, but I appreciate them for having a varied style. This song is very laid-back, with a pretty melody which gives the song an almost early 1960s feel. The lead guitar is played in that style as well, with nary a power chord in sight. The tune has their trademark expansive sound, like it was recorded in a big auditorium, with an echo-ish sound on the vocals. This is the sound of a band growing more confident and starting to hit their stride. "Lowdown, cheatin', ain't no need for repeatin'. So love, dawg, can't ya see that you never gotta fight with me?" Why you lowdown dirty dawg.......

8. Last Good Day Of The Year - Cousteau

Apparently, this is an English group. Other than that, I can't tell you much about them. This song is from their self-titled debut album, so there's some info for you. I first heard this when I got the digital package for my TV and with it came all those Galaxie music channels. I just stumbled across it while surfing the channels one day and it stuck with me. It is the best Burt Bacharach song that the man himself didn't write. It has a great melancholic melody and the piece de resistance is the brilliant Herb Alpert-sounding trumpet which winds its way through the whole song. This is just a great listen on a rainy day. "When the summer's light is fragrant with scents of returning, you relent, you resent, now you're burning for nothing to change." New perfume: Eau de Returning......

7. Last Nite - The Strokes

Hype, hype, then a little more hype. These guys caught on in the U.K. first, even though they are from New York City. Trade rags like the NME had them on the cover right off the bat and tapped them as the new saviours of Rock. I didn't believe the hype, but I did like this debut album lots. This is the standout track, all lo-fi churning guitars, coupled with a simple melody set to simple lyrics. Singer Julian Casablancas had the bad-boy looks to help get the band some TV exposure as well. My biggest question concerning these guys was whether they would have any staying power. Well, it is 10 years on and they have just released their 4th studio album and first in 5 years called Angles. It may well be the best thing they have ever done, so get it and play it as soon as possible. "See people, they don't understand. No girlfriends, they can't understand. Your grandsons, they won't understand. On top of this, I ain't ever gonna understand." Understand?

6. Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground - The White Stripes

Taken from their breakthrough 3rd album, White Blood Cells, this song cements Jack White as a bonafide Rock Guitar God. Just take a listen to the opening riff alone. On headphones, it blows your hair back like the old Maxell ad. The chunky punch of the chords after the verses just kick ass too, all feedback-drenched hellaciousness. Drummer Meg is quite awful, but her primitive style fits perfectly with the bare-bones rawness of their sound. Undoubtedly, Jack White has the blooz man and in him lives the ghosts of several legendary axe-men. You can hear the passion he has for music in every note of this great tune. "I didn't feel so bad 'til the sun went down. Then I come home, no-one to wrap my arms around." Don't let the sun go down on me......

5. The Three Great Alabama Icons - Drive-By Truckers

The Truckers' 3rd album was an extremely interesting and well thought out concept record called Southern Rock Opera. They weren't on my radar at all until this album, mainly because I had shied away from most Southern rock for years. This song deals with singer/guitarist Patterson Hood's personal feelings and opinions about Alabama's past and its heroes, Governor George Wallace, football coach Bear Bryant and singer Ronnie Van Zant. Hood doesn't sing in this tune, instead, he talks along with the sparse backing instruments in the finest ballad tradition. This is a fantastic history lesson for those who weren't aware or alive back then. "And me, I was one a’ them pussy boys… cause I hated football, so I got a guitar… but a guitar was a poor substitute for a football with the girls in my high school." A guitar is much harder to throw too....

4. Burn Baby Burn - Ash

These guys hail from Northern Ireland, which would lead one to surmise that they would sing about political issues like U2, but that is not the case. For their 3rd album, Free All Angels, the band added guitarist Charlotte Hatherley to help round out their live sound. This led to their biggest selling record and made them huge in the U.K. This song is fast, loud, melodic and energetic, with buzz-saw guitars and machine gun drumming. Guitarist/vocalist Tim Wheeler sings with sincerity and the band's noise is a joyful one indeed. Tap your foot, sing along, or leap around the room like a crazed beast - whatever you choose, you will not be able to just sit and listen to this. The NME readers voted it Single of the Year for 2001. "Look into my tired eyes, see someone you don't recognize. Binds that can't be untied, oh yeah, this is slow suicide." No, Gord, this is not Blink 182....

3. Sister Surround - The Soundtrack Of Our Lives

We go from a one syllable band to these long- monikered Swedes. Behind The Music was their 3rd release, but the first to make any waves in North America, mostly because of this hook-laden gem of a tune. Singer Ebbot Lundberg has a casual delivery and cheerful disposition and he looks nothing like your classic frontman. Starting off with a throbbing bass line and 4/4 beat, the Who-like guitars come chiming in and away we go. The sound is big without being over-produced. This is Rock 'N' Roll in its purest form. The band sounds like they are having fun letting loose and the listener is drawn into this song full of classic hooks. Another song that you must sing with! "You're a book out of nowhere, being read all the time." Everyday I write the book....

2. New York, New York - Ryan Adams

Taken from his 2nd album, Gold, this is the song that made Adams more famous than ever as it was adopted as the unofficial anthem of the city after 9/11. The video for the song was filmed 4 days before the attacks and in it, the Twin Towers are clearly visible. MTV played it to death in those days and it pushed sales of the album much higher than they normally would have been. It has a great shuffle rhythm, similar to Steve Forbert's 1979 song Romeo's Tune, which is why Martina loves it so much. It is Adams' love song to his adopted city, with a catchy melody and several interesting twists, like the sax solo near the end, a sort of tip of the cap to the city's rich Jazz heritage. Benmont Tench of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers plays a wicked Hammond organ on this tune as well, adding colour and soul to the proceedings. "I remember Christmas in the blistering cold in a church on the Upper West Side. Babe, I stood there singing, I was holding your arm, you were holding my trust like a child." Now if I could only get Martina to apply to the Times......

1. Pyramid Song - Radiohead

Radiohead went into the studio in late 1999 to record the follow-up to the brilliant OK Computer and came out with 2 albums worth of material, 2000's Kid A and this album, their 5th called Amnesiac. These were a huge departure for the band, highly experimental in nature and very different sounding to their previous stuff. i'm not a huge fan of these records, but this particular song might just be my favourite by them. The arrangement is sparse, led by a piano. When the band comes in, the orchestration is gorgeous, steeped in sadness and a wistful tone of longing. it washes over the listener in waves, with the accompanying jazzy drums giving a crispness and clarity to the song. Thom Yorke's aching voice ties all the elements together and I am constantly left speechless by the sheer beauty and magnificence of this tune. Amazing!

"I jumped in the river and what did I see?
Black-eyed angels swam with me
A moon full of stars and astral cars
All the things I used to see
All my lovers were there with me
All my past and futures
And we all went to heaven in a little row boat
There was nothing to fear and nothing to doubt."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Listomania! - 2000

The world didn't end. My computer didn't explode. Financial markets didn't crash. The new millennium came in with a whimper, disappointing all the gloom and doom prognosticators and religion addicts worldwide. The big change in my life was that Martina got a job at The National Post in Toronto, with the help of her friend and mentor Phil Tyson, so we had to move. We looked at places in Toronto, but the prices were so outlandish that we just kept going east until we got to Oshawa. We rented a semi-detached place on King Street and moved in. It was the move from hell! We arrived at the appointed time, only to find that the previous occupants had barely begun to even pack their things, never mind move them out. We had the 2 kids helping us, as well as the 2 Dachsunds and 1 very unhappy cat. I forget how long we had to wait, much of it spent in the parking lot of the local strip mall, but it was several hours. We were all quite pissed off and by the time we got to move our stuff in, it was done in record time, causing me to pull every muscle in my body. We just fired everything in the place and left arranging for the next day as it was very late by the time we were done. We vowed never to do the moving by ourselves again and on our subsequent move to our current address, we hired movers and avoided all the pulled muscles and cursing and swearing. Here are the songs I was digging while convalescing from the move:

10. Ms. Jackson - Outkast

My dislike for all things Hip-Hop and Rap borders on the fanatical. But, something about this gem of a tune grabbed my ears and wouldn't let go. Apparently, it is from the duo's 4th album called Stankonia, but I only know that because I looked it up on AllMusic. There is a great sample from the brilliant Strawberry Letter 23 by The Brothers Johnson and the chorus is so hooky. The song has a Sly Stone/Prince sort of feel to it and a fantastic rhythm, just made for shaking your groove thang. I think it's quite clever lyrically. I read, again thank you to AllMusic, that it was written about Erykah Badu's mother, but I claim no insight otherwise. "I'm sorry Ms. Jackson. I am for real. Never meant to make your daughter cry, I apologize a trillion times." Say it loud! I'm sorry, but I'm proud!

9. The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret - Queens Of The Stone Age

This is melodic Stoner-Rock, all warm fuzzy guitar tones on the verses, then louder and crunchier on the choruses. For me, QOTSA are all about lead singer/guitarist Josh Homme. The former Kyuss member just has such a cool delivery and style that has induced me to have a huge man-crush on him. I am not a huge fan of this band, but when they do it right, like on this tune, I sit up and take notice. The drumming sounds a lot like Dave Grohl, but it is another former member of Kyuss, Gene Trautmann, slamming away on the kit here. this song is from the band's 2nd album called Rated R. "Whatever you do, don't tell anyone." My lips are sealed......

8. The Rainbow - The Apples In Stereo

This little Pop gem is on their 4th album, The Discovery Of A World Inside The Moone. The Apples, who are mainly vocalist/guitarist Robert Schneider and a rotating cast of musicians, harken back to the mid-60s sounds of The Monkees, spreading a sunshine-kissed, summery feeling through the world's ears. They are big favourites of Little Steven and get a ton of airplay on his Underground Garage radio show. You cannot resist the charms that this song offers and you will be belting out the chorus after only a couple of listens. "Take a trip under the ground, take a little look around, baby don't you know people come and go, just like the rainbow." Somewhere, over the .....

7. Trouble - Coldplay

Yes, they sound somewhat like Radiohead. I don't like everything they've ever recorded, but I think Chris Martin is a sincere enough chap. I don't understand a lot of the hatred that is directed at them. Coldplay are a fine little combo and have written and recorded a few very good songs and this is one of their finest. The piano is the hook here folks. It is gorgeous and that is just a fact. I also really like the sound of the bluesey slide guitar and the tasteful deployment of said guitar. This is just a hauntingly beautiful song sung by Martin with lots of feeling. Is that a crime? "Oh no, what's this? A spider web, and I'm caught in the middle. So I turn to run, the thought of all the stupid things I've done." Amen brother....

6. Renegades Of Funk - Rage Against The Machine

This is one of the best cover versions ever done. It's not very often that I prefer the cover to the original, but that is definitely the case here. The original was done in 1983 by Rap pioneer Afrika Bambaataa and it was OK. But, when put into the hands of the guys from Rage, it becomes a monstrous dinosaur trampling all in the way. Producer Rick Rubin gives this the full sonic treatment with chunky bass, thwacking drums, bongos, and Tom Morello and his guitar blasting away all of life's cares. They also do a fine cover of Springsteen's The Ghost Of Tom Joad on this album, which is called, funnily enough, Renegades. "Nothing stayed the same, but there were always renegades like Chief Sitting Bull, Tom Paine, Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, they were renegades of their time and age." I have a dream....

5. Ariel vs. Lotus - Limblifter

Taken from their 2nd album, Bellaclava, the Dahle brothers spread their musical wings a bit and incorporate more of a groove into their music. Singer/guitarist Ryan belts out a killer melody, augmented by 2 future New Pornographers, brother Kurt on the drums and Todd Fancey on bass. It is the bass groove which drives this tune - a big slab of funk-rock goodness. This band were known to write catchy songs and this one is probably their best. They were another fine example of the improving Canadian music scene in the 1990s. "She stole an Ariel on her way here. It's twice her age and jet fast. No helmet's safe 'cause she's luckier this year." Luck be a lady tonight....

4. A Place Called Home - PJ Harvey

I always felt that PJ Harvey is the next in line to Patti Smith in the natural progression of Punk poetesses. Like Smith, her lyrics are stark, frank and often personal. This song continues in that vein, but, much like Ms. Smith around the release of Easter, the music has become much more accessible. The sound of this song is beautiful, the melody memorable, almost pretty. The almost spoken backing vocals mimic Patti as well. The lyrics are hopeful in the face of life's pitfalls and are a heartfelt attempt to ease someone's pain with the thought of love and the comforts of a "home." This album has many collaborators, most notably former Nick Cave cohort Mick Harvey on guitar. "And I'm right on time and the birds keep singing and you're right on line, one day there'll be a place for us." Everything in its place.....

3. Mass Romantic - The New Pornographers

This is the title track from their debut album. They are a sort of Canadian Indie "supergroup" led by singersongwriter/guitarist and general bon vivant Carl Newman. The band was started as a side project and has since morphed into the full time gig for most of the members. The secret ingredient here is vocalist Neko Case, whose distinctive sound has catapulted the band into one of the biggest Indie bands around today. Case has a thriving solo career as well, but New Pornographers put her name on the map. This is Power-Pop crossed with New Wave and it wears those influences proudly. This tune is familiar right from the first listen and it is one of those occasions where you swear that you have heard this song before. Just a brilliant song from a smashing debut album! "Now this romantic duel is into the streets, bon appetit, you've eaten me alive you realize, this is not the way." I want you, to show me the way...

2. Godless - The Dandy Warhols

The top 3 songs on this list were all so amazing that it was hard to rank them. From the Dandy's 3rd album, Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia, this song is the opener, and what an opener! The great acoustic guitar riff at the beginning sounds quite familiar and it is. If it is not a direct rip-off of George Harrison's My Sweet Lord, (for which he was successfully sued for ripping off He's So Fine) then it is so close that it fooled my ears. But, it is a great riff which is augmented by the song's signature sound, the trumpet part played by one Eric Matthews. The song is sung in whispered tones and full stoner/slacker style by frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor and the effect is outstanding. This song would be at or near the top of any of the years on this list. Just superb! "Hey I said you're godless and it seems like you're a soulless friend." But how do you really feel?

1. Sea Song - Doves

Doves are from the Manchester area and are the direct descendants of The Smiths and Joy Division and their ilk. This song is more psychedelic in feel than those predecessors, but Jimi Goodwin's vocals convey that Mancunian sense of sadness and betrayal. The melody is so gorgeous and the overall feel so wonderful that, to me, this is one of the most beautiful songs ever. I love the way the rhythm undulates and crashes over the listener like the waves in the sea. Their is a sax solo too and it melts perfectly back into the song in a seamless continuum. Oh yeah, pop it on in the car when you're on a long highway drive and tell me that it isn't one of the best driving songs ever too. "Drive with me, do the things you wont believe. Drive with me, past the city and down to sea. Crushing dreams leave me be, I cannot sleep." Ativan will fix that.....

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Listomania! - 1999

I have not written much on this blog about my maternal Grandmother, who I called Nan. Her influence on my life is far too immense to document here. She was born in 1914 in Burnley, England, up in coal country where life was hard and her family were poor. Her Dad was in World War I in the British Infantry and saw action in Africa and France. In 1921, they decided to emigrate to Canada for a chance at a better life. They took a boat over from Blackpool and ended up in the frozen tundra of St. Joe's Island in Northern Ontario. Her Dad got a job with CN and they moved to Capreol. She married Pop in 1938 and had my Mom, her only child, in 1939. She always wanted more kids, but biology only allowed her one. She was a housewife,as most women of her era were. She was active in the United Church and was always keeping busy with the "Church Ladies" as she called them. She had always wanted a boy, so when her first Grandchild came along (yours truly) and was a male, she was thrilled. She spoiled me all to hell, at least as much as my family's limited budget would let her. It wasn't so much gifts and toys that she lavished on me, but unconditional love and indulgence that bordered on ridiculous. I was the golden boy and no matter what, she always stuck by me and thought I was perfect. Everyone should have someone like that in their lives, so I count myself as very fortunate. She was as patient as anyone I have ever known. She would spend hours with me, whether it was playing hockey in her kitchen - me with a badminton racquet for a goalie stick, defending the stove (my net) against her wicked shots taken with a broom - or cutting out sports pictures from the newspaper and making homemade glue to stick them in a scrapbook, or listening to my new Beatles 45 without a single word of complaint. She did much the same for both of my sisters and they had the benefit of her love as well, although they would claim that I was always her favourite. She taught me what it means to treat people well and that you only get what you give. My Mom was moody and loud and quite self-centered, so Nan provided a nice shelter from the storm that my Mom could be. A few years after Pop died, she moved to London because she was all alone up in Capreol and wanted to be close to all of us. I used to take her a Tim Horton's coffee every Thurday before work and sit all afternoon with her and talk. In 1999, doctors discovered that she had a rupture in her aorta and advised her to have surgery. I was living in Peterborough at the time, but I drove to London to be there when she had the operation. I had to go back home right after, thinking she would be OK. She never did recover though and I didn't make it back in time before she passed. The funeral was up north, so we all made the trip. Martina and the kids and I stayed in a hotel in Sudbury, all together in one room. I used to sing to Nan all the time on my Thursday visits and one song I would sing was The Jam's English Rose. I got the guitar chords for Taylor and she learned them in one night and I sang it, accompanied by Taylor, at her funeral. I hardly remember the funeral at all. I just remember the horrible feeling of grief that overwhelmed me. I wanted to run out the door of the funeral home before it started and I could barely stand. Martina was ready to tackle me if I tried to bolt and she was a tower of strength. It was definitely the saddest I have ever been in my life. I think of Nan every day and I am so thankful that I had her loving presence in my life. We should all be so lucky. Musically, 1999 ends off the weakest decade of music in my lifetime. This list has some great songs on it, but it was difficult to come up with a solid 10 songs for it. Here they are:

10. Testify - Rage Against The Machine

Right from the start, with Tom Morello's guitar sounding like a threatening storm, this song goes for the jugular. From their 3rd album, the Battle Of Los Angeles, this is a powerful political statement from a band who have made working class causes their muse. Zack De La Rocha doesn't so much sing as scream and half-rap, but the message is clear. He's not happy with the state of things and he's not going to be quiet about it! Tom Morello really is an amazing guitarist, as anyone who saw him play with Springsteen at the Rock 'n Roll Hall Of Fame show last year would attest. I always have a soft spot for angry Marxist polemics and this is one of the finest examples I can think of. I love the lyrics when they refer to Orwell's 1984 and "The Party" slogan: "Who controls the past now controls the future. Who controls the present now controls the past. Who controls the past now controls the future. Who controls the present now?" Meet the new boss.....

9. Heartbreakin' Man - My Morning Jacket

This is the lead track from their debut album, Tennessee Fire. These longhairs from Louisville, KY are always lumped in with Southern Rock or Alt. Country bands, but they actually have a variety of styles in their music. The verses of this song are driven by acoustic guitar and an almost march-time drum beat. Singer Jim James uses his falsetto to great effect, giving a soaring quality to the beginning and middle of the tune with his "oohs" and "aahs" especially since there are only 4 lines worth of lyrics in the whole song. Guitarist Carl Broemel uses his instrument sparingly, but colours the song with some inventive licks. "2o times I wish you'd understand, that you're breakin' the heart of this heartbreakin' man." You broke my heart, so I busted your jaw......

8. Sour Girl - Stone Temple Pilots

This song may seem a little out of character for STP. I mean, it's positively quiet, both in mood and sound, compared to most of their rave-up rockers. But, this song is quite good in every way. I love the chord progressions, the lead runs, the syncopated bass and Scott Weiland's melodic croon, augmented by some gorgeous harmony vocals. Weiland apparently wrote it when his marriage was breaking up and the feeling is not so much one of sadness, but of regret and resignation. this is from their 4th album, appropriately titled No. 4. "What would you do if I followed you?" Ummm...get a restraining order.....

7. Coffee & TV - Blur

On their 6th album, called 13, Blur tried to move away from the Brit-Pop sound that had defined them. This song is still like the old sound, very english and poppy. The very underrated Graham coxon not only plays his usual brilliant guitar, especially on the feedback-drenched solo, but also sings lead on the verses, leaving Damon Albarn to put his stamp on the choruses. The video was memorable as well, featuring an animated milk carton called Milky. "So give me coffee and TV easily, I've seen so much I'm going blind and I'm braindead virtually." Amen, brother.....

6. Come For A Ride - By Divine Right

This past summer, while we were camping, Jose Contreras of By Divine Right and his family came to visit the people we were campimg with, Jason and Catherine. We had a good time and he was a very nice guy. Well, I have been charged by my family with having a horrible case of hero worship, and I must plead guilty with an explanation. It's not every day that one gets to meet somebody that they admire and that object of said admiration turns out to be worthy of admiration. I have been the object of endless jokes since, so go ahead and laugh it up! this was the first song I ever heard by his band, which has featured ever-changing members over the years. This particular incarnation included guitarist/vocalist Leslie Feist and bassist Brendan Canning, who went on to bigger fame with Broken Social Scene and, in Ms. Feist's case, as a solo artist. This song just has a trippy, happy little melody and is impossible to resist, especially if you see the super-cute video. "Come for a ride, ya'll, come feel alright. I'm getting high, ya'll, come for a ride." No ride involved, but we did go for a walk in the woods with his lovely wife, Lily.....

5. Moving - Supergrass

The thing I like best about Supergrass is that all their best songs are easy to sing along with. This particular song may just be ny fave by them. Taken from their eponymous 3rd album, I love the dreamy opening with the strummed acoustic guitar and then the way the chorus just washes over the listener. It is about the tedium of daily life, in this case probably the grind of touring, but it is applicable to any sort of repetitive lifestyle. I do love Gaz Coombes' voice on this as well, all smooth and youthful sounding. "Moving, just keep moving, till I don't know what's sane. I've been moving so long, the days all feel the same." Allied Van Lines should get the rights to this.....

4. Even Less - Porcupine Tree

I'm not a huge fan of these Brit Prog-Rockers, but this song is ace. It builds quietly, from a wash of synth to a nice lead line with a clanging ride cymbal and you know something big is coming around the bend. well, you'd be right. The guitars are massive and the drums crash and bang and the synths noodle and twiddle. The verses are softer, with flourishes of acoustic guitar, bringing to mind the Moody Blues. Singer Steven Wilson has a beautiful voice and the vocals are probably the best thing about this band.The heavy parts are more in the vein of Tool, providing a sharp contrast. this is from their 5th album, Stupid Dream, and is really the only song I love by them. "And I may just waste away from doing nothing, but you're a martyr for even less." Wasting away again in Martyritaville.....

3. Learn To Fly - Foo Fighters

The Foo's 3rd album, There Is Nothing Left To Lose, sees them become a real band for the first time. Taylor Hawkins is now firmly in place on the drums and it seems to have allowed Dave Grohl to put more energy into crafting the songs. he got tired of living the wasted rockstar lifestyle and bought a ranch in Virginia, where he built a studio and recorded this record. He has claimed that this album was his favourite recording experience of all, which is saying something when one considers the records he has been a part of. on this song, the guitars still rock, but the sound is poppier and more melodic than ever before. the kicker is the anthemic chorus, which just begs the listener to belt it out along with him. oh yeah, the video is hilarious, with each band member playing several characters. "Hook me up a new revolution 'cause this one is a lie." You say you want a revolution....

2. Red Dragon Tattoo - Fountains Of Wayne

This song is so cute, so cheesy and so good. It is straight up Power-Pop played by a band with their tongues firmly in cheek. The whole 2nd album, Utopia Parkway, is like this, full of hooks and jangly guitars. The melody is so familiar that you are trying, while listening, to figure out who should be suing them, but it turns out to be their own after all. For me, this is pure ear candy, so sugary sweet, like a big bale of cotton candy at Coney Island, which is name-checked in the song. The story in the song is witty as hell, about a guy getting a tattoo to impress that special girl. "Will you stop pretending I've never been born? Now I look a little more like that guy from Korn." He must look pretty scary then....

1. Summer Teeth - Wilco

From their 3rd album of the same name, Wilco made their most accessible and sound-conscious record yet. This was the height of multi-instumentalist Jay Bennett's (RIP) powers and his fingerprints are all over this album. Tweedy was going through personal crises in his marriage and with an addiction to painkillers, so he relied heavily on Bennett to write most of the music and handle the production chores. The other band members were none too happy about this situation as they saw things becoming less democratic and more a 2 man show. the song has a bit of a Velvet Underground influence to my ears, with that great lead guitar line running through the whole of the song. The sound is clear and gorgeous, with that insidious melody entrenching itself in the listener's ears upon just 1 listen. One of my top 5 Wilco songs of all, for sure. "And every evening when he get home to make his supper and eat it alone, his black shirt cries while his shoes get cold." Damn black shirt, always crying about something....

Monday, January 24, 2011

Listomania! - 1998

1998 was a pretty uneventful year. I took and completed an IT course, but couldn't find a job in Peterborough, so I found a good-paying warehouse job in London and commuted between there and home on weekends. Sometimes, Martina would come to London on the weekends, but she often worked then, so I did most of the driving back and forth. During the week, I stayed at her parent's house, which was very kind of them. It was a pretty good job, with a small crew of people who were easy to work and party with. My buddy Dave was a shift supervisor there and I befriended a young guy named Josh Sawyer, who was a lot of fun, but drank to excess on a regular basis. He, Dave and myself used to frequent a bar near work that was run by Lebanese guys, which we dubbed "Porn Stars" because they would often put pornographic movies on the big-screen TVs after closing time and allow us to stay and drink illegally after hours. Another friend I made was a guy named Peter Bourke who was fun and very intelligent. He and I would do crossword puzzles every night and poke fun at people and just generally laugh our asses off most of the time. We still keep in touch to this day and he is one of the most genuinely kind people I have ever known. Musically, 1998 might just be the weakest year that I have written about up to this point. Most of the songs on this list were painstakingly difficult to come up with and it was generally just a crappy year for music I guess.

10. Poets - The Tragically Hip

Taken from their 7th studio album, Phantom Power, this tune is just typical rocking Hip. There is nothing extraordinary about it really, but it is a good little tune. Gord Downie writes his usual great lyrics and the "worker Hips" do their accustomed yeoman work at laying down their groove. Basically, it seems to be a rant about artsy types and their feeling of self-importance, told through Downie's use of clever and self-important words. "Spring starts when a heartbeat's poundin', when the birds can be heard above the reckonin' carts doing some final accounting." I reckon I should stay off those carts for a few more years.....

9. Do The Evolution - Pearl Jam

This is again an angry Eddie Vedder, raging against technology and the way it is taking precedence over human problems. The voice is distorted, even more so than the guitars, which, while they are rocking, almost sound lo-fi. Jack Irons lays down a great backbeat and cements his place as one of my favourite drummers. This is taken from their 5th and weakest, in my opinion, album called Yield. The video was great - done with animation and very effectively presenting an apocalyptic vision of the modern world. "I'm at peace with my lust, I can kill 'cause in God I trust, yeah. It's evolution, baby!" Sarah Palin will completely miss the message and apply to use this as her campaign song in 2012......

8. This Is Hardcore - Pulp

Pulp were like the poor cousins in the Brit-Pop movement, at least here in North America. They had none of the sales of Oasis or the Cockney charm of Blur. What they had was a charismatic and engaged frontman named Jarvis Cocker. This is the title track from their 6th album, which was again virtually ignored here and a huge smash in the U.K. This song is dark, cynical, theatrical and sleazy. The orchestration brings to mind a film noir score, with its brassy horns and sweeping strings. Cocker oozes slimeball sleaze as he spits out the lurid lyrics with a greasy urgency and it is quite effective and by far my fave song by them. "It seems I saw you in some teenage wet dream. I like your get up if you know what I mean." Is your wife a goer, know wot I mean.....know wot I mean?

7. Money City Maniacs - Sloan

It starts off like Kiss' Firehouse, with the wailing sirens and all. But it soon morphs into a Big Star riff-fest, with the harmony vocals and huge guitar chords powered by a killer melody. These Haligonians were probably the best band in Canada in the '90s and this song is one of their calling cards. The lyrics are too clever, with the plays on words and the punchline of "his body was covered in Coke fizz." It is just a great Pop-Rock song and that is all that needs to be said. "If you admit that you were wrong, then we'll admit that we're right." Go on, just admit it.....

6. My Favourite Game - The Cardigans

Coming off their breakthrough hit Lovefool from a couple of years earlier, this is a bit of a new direction for these Swedes. Singer Nina Persson is still the focal point, but she doesn't coo and purr as in the days of yore. This song, from their 4th album Gran Turismo, is much harder-edged, with a driving bass line and quirky lead guitar. I love the metronomic quality of the hi-hat on the choruses too, sounding like a ticking bomb. This tale of cruel love and having one's face rubbed in said love was ably abetted by the haunting video, which, if you recall, started with Ms. Persson getting into a convertible with a huge rock and placing the rock on the gas pedal and proceeding to drive like a mad-woman until it ends with her crashing into a transport truck. "I should have seen it when my hope was new, my heart is black and my body is blue." Sort of like your typical Leaf fan......

5. Malibu - Hole

Ahh, dear Courtney! So reviled by virtually everyone, especially those conspiracy theorists who blame her for the suicide of Kurt Cobain. The girl was and is a mess, but I take no happiness from her sad state. This song is pretty much her best effort. Her singing is still flat and off-key, but it somehow fits this song from Hole's 3rd album, Celebrity Skin. Bassist and Canadian Melissa Auf Der Maur adds some tasty backing vocals on this song and that adds to its charm. Billy Corgan, the egomaniac who led the Smashing Pumpkins, co-wrote this tune with Courtney and I think his ability with a catchy melody put this over the top and made it a hit. "And I knew love would tear you apart, and I knew the darkest secret of your heart." Loving you ain't so easy Courtney.....

4. At My Most Beautiful - R.E.M.

This song is from their 11th album, Up, and their first without drummer Bill Berry. It is a fairly crappy record, but there are 2 or 3 highlights and this is one of them. Joey Waronker, of Beck fame, sat in on the skins for this record. This sounds like an outtake from Pet Sounds, with its piano and backing harmonies and weird horn parts and cello and broken drum patterns, not to mention the echo / wall of sound production. It is truly a departure for R.E.M., but it may be the most beautiful love song that Michael Stipe ever wrote. "You always say your name, like I wouldn't know it's you, at your most beautiful." Gorgeous!

3. Medicine Hat - Son Volt

This is one of my sister Shannon's favourite songs. See Shan, not only was this post worth waiting for, but you get a mention too! Taken from their 3rd album, Wide Swing Tremolo, this is Jay Farrar at his most heartfelt and sincere. I see it as a sort of take on Dante's Inferno as it is similar in its tone and its predictions. Farrar is a brilliant songwriter and he proves it again with his great arrangement on this song. He gives his band room to play and slide guitarist Dave Boquist plays his part to perfection and comes out smelling like a rose with his superb slide parts. This is the best song on a very good album. "There will be layers of means to an end, drawn-out days before resolution. Dregs will rain down from all directions, there will be right, there will be wrong." Still waiting.....

2. Without You I'm Nothing - Placebo

This is the title cut from their 2nd album and ,for these Brits, it was their breakthrough to some radio play and sales on this side of the pond. Well, the single Pure Morning got lots of airplay anyway. This song is an epic, all dark, moody and druggy. The guitar is like a junkie's needle, buzzing all throughout the song, poking in and out of the melody. The star of this song is singer / guitarist Brian Molko, who, with his androgynous look and sound, peaked the public's interest in the band. Once one has heard a cut by Placebo, his distinctive voice means that anytime one of their songs comes on the radio, one knows who the band is right away. Apparently, David Bowie was a huge fan of this song, so much so that he added some vocals to the single version. "I'm unclean, a libertine and every time you vent your spleen, I seem to lose the power of speech." Cat got your tongue?

1. California Stars - Wilco

This is from the album Mermaid Avenue, which was a joint effort between Billy Bragg and Wilco. Woody Guthrie's daughter Nora asked them to pen new songs from finished lyrics left behind by her late, legendary father. Of the 15 cuts on the album, Bragg does 8 and Wilco the other 7. This ditty is the highlight for me. One could easily imagine Woody himself singing this on a boxcar heading west, or sitting around a campfire at night on the prairie. It has a great country-folk feel and the use of instruments like violin and accordian only enhance the effect. There is also some lovely slide guitar work from Bob Egan, who now plays with Blue Rodeo. I dare you to keep from singing along to this one! "I'd like to dream my troubles all away on a bed of California stars." Especially now when it's -20 here!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Listomania! - 1997

My parents had moved us to London in 1967 to get out of the frozen tundra of Capreol. I lived there for 30 years, until Martina landed her first job as a reporter at the Peterborough Examiner. In May of 1997, we packed up our belongings and set out for the Kawarthas. The kids were 19 and 16 and didn't want to leave their friends, so they stayed behind in London. Martina proved to be a smashing success and soon became the police reporter and covered several very interesting stories, including a couple of grisly murders. I never really took to Peterborough as I found it to be a strange and insular place. Everybody knew everybody and it was hard to make friends. Employment for me was nearly impossible as there were no jobs there, but I had some months of EI left, so there was not a real sense of urgency yet. We rented the upper floor of a house on a hill at the end of Kenneth Avenue, which was a dead-end street. It was a small but comfy house. The guy who lived downstairs, the only Jamaican in Peterborough, was rarely home, so it was quite quiet and private. There were woods at the end of the street where we could take the dogs for long walks. One day, on our way home from a walk, Aspen and I were already at the top of the hill going home. I turned to see what was taking Martina and Arden so long. Martina was motioning to something on the ground. It was a baby kitten that Arden had found in the woods, following them home. He was very small (we later were told by the vet that he was no more than 4 weeks old) and very vocal, meowing constantly. We went around the neighbourhood and asked if anyone owned him. After striking out on that front, Martina took him to the Humane Society to see if they would take him in. No luck there either, as they were full of unwanted cats already. So, we kept him and I named him Chi Chi Rodriguez, after the golfer, because it just sounded good. We called him Riguez The Chi most of the time, Riguez for short. Well, 13 years later, he is still with us and still meowing constantly. He is in great shape for such a senior cat and he and Howie keep each other occupied with their mutual fascination society. Here are some of the first songs Riguez ever heard:

Top 10 Of 1997

10. 16 Days - Whiskeytown

I came to this band late, having become a big Ryan Adams fan in 2003, then going back and checking out this Alt-Country band that he fronted. This song originally appeared on their debut album called Faithless Street in 1995, but they released it again on their 3rd album, Stranger's Almanac, in '97. It features stellar slide-guitar work from Phil Wandscher, who now plays in Jesse Sykes' band. The one female member, Caitlin Cary, provides some nice backing vocals and fiddle playing. Adams delivers the vocal in his now familiar half-rasp, with lyrics filled with regret for a lost love. This song really hints at the direction Adams' solo career would take and shows his love of authentic feeling and sounding Country music. "Old tin cups, and little paper dolls, all wrapped up, in the ribbons of your heart." Regrets, I've had a few.....

9. Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth - The Dandy Warhols

This was the first song I ever heard by these Portland, Oregon natives. Actually, I think I saw the video the first time I heard it. From their 2nd album, The Dandy Warhols Come Down, this slacker jangle-pop is very catchy. Singer/guitarist Courtney Taylor-Taylor (haha) looked cool and sounded cool too. They were known for their wild live shows, with some band members, including keyboardist Zia McCabe, baring it all on stage. When these guys are good, they are one of my favourite bands. The problem is that they are very inconsistent, but for 3 albums, they were amazing. This ditty was apparently written about a former friend of the band, Brian Jonestown Massacre leader Anton Newcombe. "I never thought you'd be a junkie because heroin is so passe." The cool kids are into blow, don'cha know.....

8. Caryatid Easy - Son Volt

Taken from their 2nd album, Straightaways, this rocker is pushed forward by the chunky, punchy twin guitars of Jay Farrar and Dave Boquist, with Boquist adding a couple of searing solos as well. It treads much the same ground as their first album, but their sound is so good. Jay Farrar sings with his forlorn, homespun delivery and I am a big fan of his as few artists can write with his feeling and integrity. Turn it up loud and sing along! By the way, I didn't know what a caryatid was, so I looked it up. It is a sculptured female figure serving as an ornamental support in place of a column or pilaster. So there! "Educated with poison laughter, seems like high times every morning after." It's all fun until someone gets their eye poked out.....

7. Everlong - Foo Fighters

With the 2nd album, The Colour And The Shape, Dave Grohl put a proper band together after having recorded the first record virtually alone. He hired Pat Smear on guitar, Nate Mendel on bass, and drummer William Goldsmith. But, he had a falling out with Goldsmith and fired him and re-recorded most of the drum parts himself. To these eyes, Goldsmith was in a no-win situation - can you imagine being the drummer in a band where one of the world's best drummers is hanging over you? For the tour, Taylor Hawkins was recruited and he still sits behind the Foo's kit to this day, so I must give him kudos. This is one of Grohl's best songs, all roaring guitars and fast drums and heartfelt singing. I think the biggest surprise for me are the melodies that he writes. They are catchy and memorable as hell, even though this band rocks hard. "Breathe out so I can breathe you in, hold you in." Love that line!

6. 6 Underground (Nellee Hooper Edit) - Sneaker Pimps

I'm not a big fan of the Trip-Hop genre, but this song and its languid groove are too powerful to resist. The singer, Kelli Dayton, only lasted this 1 album with the band. Apparently, one of the guys in the band wanted to be the singer. What a maroon! They instantly were tossed in the where-are-they-now-bin for all eternity. Ms. Dayton has such a liquid quality to her voice that totally suits the tone and feel of this song. She has a sound that makes all males picture her in pigtails and a schoolgirl uniform. I also love the sample from James Bond's Goldfinger that runs through this tune, giving it a timeless and classic feel. "Don't think 'cos I understand, I care, don't think 'cos I'm talking we're friends." Ouch!

5. Sun Hits The Sky - Supergrass

This is pure joy, pure energy and just pure fun in song form. The guitars rock and roll and the band strikes such a feel that just carries this song off into the stratosphere. They should play this for astronauts while they're blasting off into space. This is taken from their 2nd album, In It For The Money, and Gaz Coombes and his clear, raucous vocals fit the mood perfectly, cutting through this swirl of sound. The icing on the cake is the cheesy synth solo that careens along with the beat in the middle of the song. "I am a doctor, I'll be your doctor, I'm on my way, and you won't come down today." Calling Dr. Feelgood.....

4. Mermaids - Paul Weller

With his 4th solo album, Heavy Soul, Weller seemed to have hit a wall. He was sitting pretty, accepting accolades as the leader of the Brit-Pop movement, but he felt stuck in a rut again. Personally, I quite like that album, but the lyrics are darker and more pessimistic for sure. This song boasts a neat little string section which accents this mostly acoustic song. The melody is a keeper, sticking in the listener's head afterward. I love the chord progressions and Steve White's solid, if unspectacular, drumming. "She's on my side, I often hide in her magic hair, and there I learn again - the joy of life." Abracadabra.....

3. Beetlebum - Blur

In this 1 song, Blur encapsulates the whole Beatles White Album. It is an unabashed homage to the Fab Four, with Damon Albarn sounding so detached, perhaps stoned. The song has a real slow groove to it and marks a change from the band's poppy, Kinks-like, English mischief- makers era of previous records. This is from their 5th album, which is self-titled, in kind of a poke at those who criticized them for not making it in America. Ironically, this was their biggest record in the U.S.A., mostly on the strength of the catchy Song 2, which can be heard forever more at sporting events throughout the world. "And when she lets me slip away, she turns me on and all my violence is gone. Nothing is wrong, I just slip away and I am gone." Way gone daddy-o.....

2. Autumn Sweater - Yo La Tengo

These veterans from New Jersey waited until their 8th album, I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One, to reveal that they had some dancefloor grooves in them. This album has many styles on it, but this song is the best thing they have ever done in my opinion. Ira Kaplan's voice sounds so fragile and fractured, conveying a deep sadness with the world. A simple organ riff dominates the song, augmented by a killer bass line and a tasty drum loop. This is one of Martina's top songs of all time. "We could slip away, wouldn't that be better? Me with nothing to say and you in your autumn sweater." If you want to destroy my sweater.....

1. Paranoid Android - Radiohead

From their 3rd and best album, OK Computer, this song is their masterpiece. This is a band at the height of their creative powers, full of confidence and not afraid to try anything. Thom Yorke and his fantastic voice really let it go this time, full of feeling and raw emotion. The song features numerous time changes, each time featuring a different sound to please the listener's ears. There are great acoustic guitars, roaring electrics, smashing drums, snaky bass lines and almost hymn-like backing vocals. This is the Bohemian Rhapsody of the '90s, a giant tour de force that cements Radiohead's place among the giants of the era. Bloody genius! "When I am king, you will be first against the wall, with your opinion which is of no consequence at all." Another "I wish I'd written that" moment......

Monday, December 27, 2010

Top 20 Albums Of 2010

Here are my picks for the best long players this year. I 'm not doing the best songs of the year as they will appear in the Listomania series later on. All in all, it was a very good year for music, maybe not outstanding, but there were several superb records made in 2010. Here they are from 20-1:

20. The Sea - Corinne Bailey Rae

This is a pretty low-key record by the Leeds native. She was away for awhile coping with the overdose death of her husband last year and these songs reflect that tragedy. She has the voice of an angel though, so nuanced and soulful and full of feeling. This is what the Rihannas and Ke$has of the world couldn't achieve in their wildest dreams because this girl has that huge ingredient that they sorely lack: pure talent.
Best Songs: Are You Here, The Blackest Lily

19. The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night - The Besnard Lakes

Imagine the Cocteau Twins had a baby with the Jesus And Mary Chain and mix in some Led Zeppelin and ELO for good measure. That is about as close as I can get to describing this Montreal band. They are fronted by singer/guitarist Jace Lasek and his wife, bassist/vocalist Olga Goreas and their sound and vision are quite unique. They take dynamics to a whole new level, at times quietly ethereal and then as bombastic and heavy as it gets.
Best Songs: Like The Ocean Like The Innocent Pt. 1: The Innocent, And This Is What We Call Progress

18. Northern Aggression - Steve Wynn & The Miracle 3

Steve Wynn was a big deal in the Paisley Underground scene in California in the early '80s. His band The Dream Syndicate had a huge cult following and he was seen as one of the cool guys of the time. Well, he is now 50 and this album proves that even us old farts can still pack a punch. This album is straight-up rock played by the classic 2 guitars, bass and drums foursome, but it sounds so good. His voice is a cross between the snarl, half-talk of Lou Reed and the twang of Tom Petty. The riffs are great and the attitude is alive and well.
Best Songs: Resolution, On The Mend

17. School Of Seven Bells - Disconnect From Desire

I suppose these New Yorkers sound a lot like one of my fave '90s bands, Curve, but the vocals are clearer and the melodies are catchier. This band was created by Benjamin Curtis, formerly of Secret Machines, and twin sisters/ vocalists Alejandra and Claudia DeHeza. The music is very synth-driven and beat heavy, with the Dehezas' vocals pulling the listener into their Dream-Pop world. The album is full of glorious soundscapes and this record is a treat to listen to, for these worn ears at least.
Best Songs: Windstorm, Heart Is Strange, Babelonia

16. Mini Mansions - Mini Mansions

This band is essentially a side project for Queens Of The Stone Age bassist Michael Shuman. It always gets me when artists do a solo album or a side project to "get more creative" or whatever and it sounds exactly like the band that they are "getting away" from. Well, this sounds absolutely nothing like QOTSA, not even a bit. This is Beatlesque Chamber-Pop, full of harmony vocals and keyboards and dreamy melodies. A very interesting listen, and quite an unexpected pleasant surprise.
Best Songs: Crime Of The Season, Seven Sons, Kiddie Hypnogogia

15. High Violet - The National

Who would have expected such a collection of uptempo, happy songs? Oh wait, this is The National right? No happy, for sure, and little to no uptempo. These Brooklynites-by-way-of-Cincinnati continue with their bleak vision on this record, with much critical acclaim. While it is mostly worthy praise, I would argue that listening to them too much makes one dour and miserable, perhaps even depressed. It is great music to play when life is getting you down, or when one is feeling contemplative, but I advise against putting it on at your next holiday family get-together. It is indeed a great record though, but put away the sleeping pills and rope and razors before you put it on the Ipod.
Best Songs: Anyone's Ghost, Bloodbuzz Ohio, Conversation 16

14. Expo 86 - Wolf Parade

This Montreal band always puts out quality records, and this 3rd album is no exception. The herky-jerky rhythms and analog synth lines are their signature and they always write a mean melody as well. 2008's At Mount Zoomer was one of that year's best and a big fave of mine. This record is just a notch below that one, but it is still a brilliant piece of work.
Best Songs: Palm Road, Little Golden Age, Ghost Pressure

13. Total Life Forever - Foals

New Order meets Talking Heads on this 2nd album from these guys who hail from Oxford, England. This is a collection of songs that one can dance to, but they have a strong vein of indie-cred running through them. The rhythms and jittery guitars really do remind me of Talking Heads circa 1979, while the polyrhythms and African influences tip the cap to latter day Heads. The choruses are chant-like singalongs like the best of New Order, really bringing home the '80s influences that abound here.
Best Songs: Miami, Total Life Forever, This Orient

12. Strange Change Machine - The Grip Weeds

These Power-Pop veterans hail from New Jersey and reached a new level of acclaim with the release this year of this great double album. They wear their influences proudly on their sleeves and one can hear echoes of The Beatles, The Who, and even fellow Jersey natives The Smithereens in their music. This is music to be played in the sunshine, sitting out on the deck with a cold one, groovin' with the feeling. Little Steven of E-Street Band fame is a big champion of this band and often plays them on his Underground Garage radio show. They even do a very admirable cover of Todd Rundgren's seminal Hello It's Me on disc 2.
Best Songs: Speed Of Life, Close To The Sun, You're Not Walking Away

11. Field Music (Measure) - Field Music

This is a great record. It is 20 songs in total and I would struggle to find a dud amongst them. This is the 3rd album by this Sunderland, England four-piece and, in my opinion, their best ever. Their sound is hard to pigeonhole, but I would say a definite XTC influence is present in the way they create such intelligent Pop. They write angular melodies and at times they sound almost like Progressive Rock in the Yes or Emerson Lake & Palmer school. This is a grower of a record and I highly recommend it.
Best Songs: Effortlessly, Let's Write A Book, Curves Of The Needle

10. Halcyon Digest - Deerhunter

This band led by singer/guitarist Bradford Cox hails from Atlanta, but they sound nothing like a Southern rock group. Their milieu is not the kind of music that one finds instantly catchy, but requires a deeper investment from the listener. Once one spends some time with this beauty of a record, it becomes an inseparable part of your daily life. I quite love their sound, especially the way that no 2 songs sound even remotely alike. They are one of Indie rock's treasures and I advise you to give this record a long listen over several days and see if you can resist its charms.
Best Songs: Don't Cry, Desire Lines, Memory Boy, Helicopter

9. Teen Dream - Beach House

Music critics call this sound Dream-Pop and after listening to this beautiful record, it seems like an apt moniker. Singer/keyboardist Victoria Legrand's phrasing can be quite unusual, but these songs float along on her and guitarist Alex Scally's lovely clouds of sound. This record is chock full o' melodies which are sometimes obscured by the fog of the production, but they are indeed there and worm their way into the listener's consciousness after only a couple of hearings.
Best Songs: Zebra, Silver Soul, Norway, Walk In The Park

8. Wake Up The Nation - Paul Weller

This album is one of Weller's best solo records, which is saying a lot because of his longevity and prodigious output. This is an exercise in psychedelia and the sound is a bit strange on first listen. The emphasis is often placed on parts of the instrumentation not normally brought out front, such as a whirring farfisa organ or a cowbell. He has really stretched out with this record and gone for something different and knocked it right out of the park. The songs are all quite short, some only 1 minute and change, but it is very effective. I may even be so bold as to call this his Sgt. Pepper.
Best Songs: No Tears To Cry, Find The Torch/Burn The Plans, Aim High, Trees

7. Home Acres - Aloha

I have previously expressed my admiration for this album in this blog, so I will keep this short. Get this record. You won't be sorry. It is very good.
Best Songs: Moonless March, Microviolence, Cold Storage, Blackout

6. Wilderness Heart - Black Mountain

Give this a spin and prepare to be transported back to about 1975. Punk has yet to happen. dinosaurs roam the earth. and there, alongside Zep and Sabbath and their ilk, resides Black Mountain. Guitarist/vocalist Stephen McBean loves the '70s and makes no bones about it. This record is bludgeon riffola at its best, with an air of mysticism hanging around like Ozzy's ghost. There are great melodies here though, and co-vocalist Amber Webber adds a touch of Exene Cervenka (from '70s L.A. punks X) to the proceedings. This is the best rock record of the year folks. Grow your hair and put on the tie-dye!
Best Songs: The Hair Song, Old Fangs, Rollercoaster, The Way To Gone

5. The Suburbs - The Arcade Fire

There's not much that can be said about Canada's finest band at the moment. There must be something in the water in Montreal though, as it seems all the best Canadian bands are from there. The playing is amazing here, as is the singing, the feel, the sound, the lyrics...well, it is just another brilliant record. But, by now, what did you expect? These guys are 3 for 3 and if you didn't see their showstopping performance on Saturday Night Live earlier this fall, I beseech you to look it up on Youtube.
Best Songs: The Suburbs, Ready To Start, We Used To Wait, Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)

4. Together - The New Pornographers

Lots Of Can-Con on this year's list, n'est-ce pas? These folks are one of my fave bands, so no surprise that they are high on this list, right? This record is such a grower! It is not as immediate as most of their stuff, but the Pop hooks are still there in droves. There are few writers around that make me as happy as Carl Newman does. His knack for melody and his ear for detail are unrivalled in my books. Normally, I don't much care for the songs penned by Dan Bejar, but even they are great this time. Neko Case is more understated here, but that is a good thing as she sounds less forced and more natural. Kathryn Calder is now an essential member and her contributions on piano and vocals are fantastic. Just another great record to add to the rest of their catalogue.
Best Songs: Crash Years, Sweet Talk Sweet Talk, My Shepherd, We End Up Together

3. Congratulations - MGMT

Well, I have written on this album extensively earlier this year. The critics are way wrong and so are all the bandwagon-jumping hipsters, who will listen to any drivel that Sufjan Stevens puts out and call it genius, or praise no-talent, high school assembly-worthy pretention like Joanna Newsom and call it high art whilst slagging off one of the bravest and most creative records of the year. To those poseurs, I say "Go and bugger thyselves."
Best Songs: It's Working, Flash Delerium, I Found A Whistle, Siberian Breaks

2. Maintenant - Gigi

This is my little slice of nostalgia this year. Old-style music recorded on old-style equipment by people who share my love of the sound of the Brill building in New York City in the early 1960s, Phil Spector and the wall of sound, beehive hairdos and skinny ties. Just bloody brilliant and if you don't like this, then you aren't a romantic at heart....or an old fart like me.
Best Songs: Play the whole damn thing! But, if I had to choose: The Hundredth Time, I'm Not Coming Out Tonight, Everyone Can Tell, The Marquee

1. InnerSpeaker - Tame Impala

Yes, for me, this is the album of the year. Read my earlier post about it to find out more, but this blast of stoner psychedelia just turns my crank.
Best Songs: Really, every song on the album. If you don't believe me, go play it and you'll see.

So, there it is gang. If you would like to submit a list, put it in the comments section. Oh, and Happy New Year to all 5 of you!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Listomania! - 1996

1996 turned out to be a very busy year. Martina was accepted into the Master's Journalism program at UWO, so she had to turn most of her attention to that endeavour. She was tired of working in menial jobs and wanted to pursue a career that she would find more fulfilling and interesting. Being an English major, she decided that studying to be a journalist would be a great way to put her many talents to the best use. She excelled, of course, and we all had fun listening to her do the sports on the university radio station. As for me, I became shop steward on the night shift at Loeb. We were Teamsters, famously once led by Jimmy Hoffa, who, according to legend, now rests in the end zone at the old Meadowlands stadium in New Jersey. I took on this position because I was tired of the same people running the union. There was a terrible, antagonistic relationship betwween the union and management, and I stupidly thought I could help rectify that situation. I was good friends with a couple of people in management and, while I had their ear and their respect, the bad blood was so entrenched that I don't believe anyone could have made it better. It was a stressful and interesting time, for sure. I remember that there was to be a city-wide protest of the then Mike Harris provincial government and their anti-worker policies. I passed out flyers and did my best to rally the troops to take the day off and march in the protest. It was about -20 that day, so I donned my snowsuit and set out for the fairgrounds to meet up with all the protesters. I expected only about 10 of our guys to show up, but the apathy of my fellow members was rampant, so I would be happy with only 10 out of about 200 workers. Now, this was a huge deal, backed by all of organized labour and all the big unions like the CAW. So, I got there and looked around...and not 1 single soul from my workplace showed up. I was quite disappointed, but I marched in the bone-chilling cold anyway. Some would say that I was foolish to try and do this job, but I really needed to see from the inside just how things were done and how decisions were made. I left less than impressed with the Canadian branch of the Teamsters, but it was a great learning experience overall. Here are some of the tunes that I was listening to that year:

10. In A Room - Dodgy

This power trio was considered a part of the Brit Pop movement, but their sound really owed much to classic Who. The thumping drums are very Keith Moon-like and the guitars are played with a Townshendian vigour and feel. This song comes from their 3rd and best album Free Peace Sweet. The melody is quite memorable and it is a great tune to groove along with. The vocals are very British Invasion with the 3 part harmonies and "ooohs" as well and I enjoy bands that wear their influences proudly and well. "She lies sleeping in a half- filled bed, her eyes no longer study her emptiness." Her eyes are studying the back of her eyelids methinks......

9. Burden In My Hand - Soundgarden

Taken from their 5th and final album, Down On The Upside, this tune is one of their best in my eyes. It very melodic for them, without losing their hard edge. Frontman Chris Cornell is still a powerhouse with his sandpaper vocals. But, it is the instruments that are king here. Kim Thayll still plays a mean lead guitar, not really soloing out, but hitting all the right marks. Ben Shepherd is still one of my fave bass players and on this song, his playing is so bouncy and acts almost like a lead instrument. Drummer Matt Cameron can lay down a timely beat, but it his floor tom work that makes him great. Also, check out the drumroll at about 4:25 - Holy! Just wicked! Apparently, the subject is drug addiction and it always felt to me like an update of Hey Joe. "Cause fear is strong and love's for everyone who isn't me." Fear is a man's best friend......

8. If I Could Talk I'd Tell You - The Lemonheads

This is such a simple little, 3-chord singalong, one could almost overlook it, if not for the fact that the melody will follow you around forever after hearing it. It's poppy, goofy and oh-so-happy, but infectious as all get-out. Singer Evan Dando was deep into a drug problem then, but it was obviously the happy pills that he ingested that day. This is from the Car Button Cloth album, which would be their last for 8 years. I do so love that jangly guitar sound and when he breaks into a whistle, I can't help but smile. "If I could talk I'd tell you, if I could smile I'd let you know." Now that is wasted maaann!

7. Trash - Suede

Suede were another act that had massive popularity in their native U.K., but were merely a cult band over here. Led by the charismatic singer Brett Anderson, they had several chart hits in England and Europe, with this being one. Anderson channels a young Bowie here and his band comes off quite a bit like the Spiders too. They certainly sound all Glam-rock and must have listened to a T Rex record or 2 as well. The melody is gorgeous, especially the chorus, and the guitar twists its way all through the tune, carrying it along. This song is from their 3rd album, Coming Up, and their first without guitarist Bernard Butler. Critics thought they were finished when he left, but the 17 year-old Richard Oakes fills his shoes admirably. "But we're trash, you and me, we're the litter on the breeze, we're the lovers on the streets." Trash, go pick it up.....

6. One More Astronaut - I Mother Earth

Time for some Can-Con. This album, Scenery And Fish, was a big favourite of that year. Four of us, Cope, Flip, Niall and myself, would sit in my car at lunch at work and this record was blasted at top volume many times. This song has a great sound with a big, bold production. The band featured the Tanna brothers, Jag on guitar and Christian on drums, along with a singer, Edwin, who seemed to have no last name. This song is so powerful, with a crunching rhythm and roaring psychedelic guitars. Edwin was never my fave singer, but he gets the mood right here. I also love the nice Deep Purple organ break and then the little bass solo, that then leads to the guitar crashing back in. "Headspace, alive and painless, weightless and almost sane I close my eyes, I become the sky." 'Scuse me while I become the sky? No, that's not it.....

5. What I Got (Reprise) - Sublime

Gord was pointing out that these lists contain many songs by artists that I'm not a huge fan of. This is true and here is another one. I only like 2 songs by these guys, but they are 2 great songs. (The other would be Santeria if anyone was wondering.) I like the reprise version better too because I think the guitar is better than the regular version. This is from their self-titled 3rd album, which was released 3 months after the death of singer Brad Nowell from a heroin overdose. Critics and fans went crazy for them as they usually do when someone meets an untimely death, but this tune deserves any praise it ever gets. It is a funny hybrid of Rap, Ska and Folk, all wrapped in a melodic chorus that sticks in the head. Critics have said it brings to mind Lady Madonna, but I don't hear that really. "I don't cry when my dog runs away, I don't get angry at the bills I have to pay." I used to sing that to Arden when she would annoy me.....

4. Electrolite - R.E.M.

It would be very hard to pick 1 favourite album from these guys. I mean, they are near the top of my list as far as bands go and I love so many of their records. But, if pressed, I may just pick this album, their 10th, called New Adventures In Hi-Fi. It is the last record they did with drummer Bill Berry, who retired to sit home and count his money. Michael Stipe wrote it about the view of L.A. at night from Mullholland Drive, which is apparently quite spectacular. His delivery is soft and reverential, aided by the beautiful piano of bassist Mike Mills and the violin played by Andy Carlson. I remember Taylor loving this song and making me play it over and over again. "You are the star tonight, your sun electric, outta sight. Your light eclipsed the moon tonight." Beautiful.....

3. Stinkfist - Tool

How do I follow up a gorgeous song like Electrolite? How else but with a song whose title conjures up a very unflattering image? This song was accompanied by one of the most disturbing videos ever made. Remember, it was done in stop-motion animation with those gross sand people? Anyway, this band is again not usually on my radar, but this song is so undeniably powerful and I just freakin' love it. The feeling of paranoia is so palpable here, driven home by the disjointed beats and crunching guitars. Vocalist Maynard James Keenan sound alternately like a deranged madman and a scared little boy and this is also truly effective. Justin Chancellor riffs out maniacally on his bass and drummer Danny Carey pounds away with ear-splitting force. The damn song just gives me goosebumps, what else can I say? Check out the 3:50 mark - that's when I usually start bashing around the room like a lunatic. "Something kinda sad about the way that things have come to be. Desensitized to everything, what became of subtlety?" Good question...I do know that this is probably the first song ever to use a fisting metaphor.....

2. Outtasite (Outta Mind) - Wilco

This baby comes roaring out of the blocks with some chunky power chords. When listening on headphones, I have jumped out of my skin more than once with shocked surprise. This is the first song I ever heard by Wilco and they have gone on to become one of my fave bands since then. Taken from their sophomore record, Being There, this song has proven singalong integrity. I used to play it for Reed and Laura, Steve's kids, when I babysat them back in 2002. They would sing it at the top of their little lungs and we would dance around like Pigpen in the Charlie Brown cartoons, our heads flopping from side to side. This album was 2 discs, 1 electric and 1 acoustic and this is the only song that was on both discs in 2 versions. The reverb-drenched guitars are awesome and drummer Ken Coomer really pounds out a worthy backbeat. Jeff Tweedy has written his usual self-deprecating, clever lyrics and he sings them with unusual gusto. "I know we don't talk much but you're but you're such a good talker." Jane's theme song? Hee hee.

1. The Chad Who Loved Me - Mansun

These Brits weren't around long, but this song left such a lasting impression on me. It opens with gorgeous cinematic strings, like something out of a Bond film. Suddenly, the guitars come in, soaked in psychedelia, taking the Shoegaze genre to unheard of places. The guitarists name is Dominic Chad, hence the title I suppose. The vocals and guitars are all fed through phasers, giving the song a dream-like quality that just adds to its ethereal beauty. I cannot emphasize enough just how special the guitars are to this tune. This is, indeed, one of my favourite songs of all - just absolutely leaves me speechless and I could play it 100 times in a row and not get sick of it. This is from their debut album, Attack Of The Grey Lantern, and they never came close to these heights again. "Do I feel love or just possession? Do I feel holy or nothing at all?" Holy I'd say.....

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Listomania! - 1995

1995 was a pretty important year for me. Debbie had to move to Toronto for work, so Martina and I became full-time parents. We moved in with the kids and had a blast seeing them every day rather than 3 days a week. I loved making lunches for everyone and getting to sink my teeth into being a regular Dad again. Also, I was finally hired full-time at Loeb. I had already been working 40 hours a week for a few years, but now we got benefits and I knew which days I'd be working ahead of time and not have to be on call anymore. So, we all settled in to a nice, comfortable routine, and I do like routines. I know, that makes me boring as hell, but I'm not one for living by the seat of my pants, even though it has been that way most of my life. We also bought our first brand new car, a Geo Metro, which, despite its lack of prestige, was a great little car for us. Up until then, we had driven family hand-me-downs or old used clunkers that we would pray to daily to get us from A to B without breaking down. We sure had some adventures with our vehicles over the years! Probably the one that sticks out most occurred that spring. I was driving down King St. in Pop's 15 year-old Impala with Martina's brother Karel. The car was not starting properly, so Karel brought a plastic bottle of gasoline with him. You see, it was his theory that there was something wrong with the way the carburetor was working, and since I was (and still am) a complete dolt when it comes to mechanics, I let him take the lead. The car conked out on King St. near the YMCA, so I pulled it over to the side of the road. We popped the hood and Karel got out with his trusty bottle of gas. He poured some into the engine or carburetor or wherever and then got in and fired the ignition, with the hood still in an upright position. As soon as he turned the key, flames shot about 10 feet in the air and also straight out the bottom of the car. A huge plume of black smoke rose into the air, noticeable for miles around. I was standing beside the car, yelling to Karel about the flames. He proceeded to jump out of the car and start walking away, up the street. As he had left me standing there wondering what the hell he was doing, a city bus pulled up alongside and the driver came racing out with a fire extinguisher. Karel kept walking. Then, the fire truck showed up. I tried to explain what happened to the bemused fireman, who probably thought I was a brainless idiot (no argument here!) and who made sure the fire was out. When everyone had left, I saw Karel sheepishly ambling back toward the scene. He was laughing his ass off while I fumed. Now, if you know Karel, he has a real shit-eating grin on his face when he thinks something is funny. It was because of this shit-eating grin that I decided not to kill him and joined with him in cracking up about what had just transpired. I went into the YMCA to call a tow truck and everyone in there had seen the incident and were laughing quite hard when I went up to the desk to use the phone. I called a tow truck and had the car towed home. Soon after, we went and bought the Geo. Some of the tunes that I listened to in our new car were:

10. Alright - Supergrass

This sunny, teenage paean to being cool is taken from these Brit's debut album, I Should Coco. It received almost no airplay on this side of the Atlantic, but through my reading of the NME, I had the 12" single. Most people in North America would know this from an Intel TV commercial from a few years ago. It is instantly memorable, full of the catchiest hooks and Gaz Coombes' youthful vocals. The piano riff which drives the tune is a direct tip of the cap to one of their biggest influences, Madness. I always felt this song would have fit right in on an episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus. This is a song that will stick in the old craw for hours after just one listen, so go put it on! "We are young, we run free, keep our teeth, nice and clean, see our friends, see the sights, feel alright." He iiiisss an halibut!

9. King - Belly

This is the title cut from this Boston-based band's 2nd and last album. Leader Tanya Donelly was a former member of the seminal '80s band Throwing Muses with her sister, Kristen Hersh. She left in 1992 to form Belly and their 1st album Star from 1993 was a great record. But, I like this record even better, despite the fact that it was a commercial failure, due to the Grunge scene and its hold on popular music at the time. The guitars are driving and urgent, but more jangly than loud and they didn't fit in with the times. This is Power-Pop though, and the melody is catchy enough to stick in your head, sort of like one has heard it before. I love the tempo changes, not so much quiet-loud, but just a subtle shift in the rhythm. "You light the ocean from behind, I'll show you mine, I'll show you." Mmmmm.....Tanya Donelly.....

8. Catching On - Son Volt

I always find it amusing when critics go on about so called "supergroups." Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy were in a band called Uncle Tupelo in the early '90s that is now considered one of these "supergroups." Now, if any of my loyal readers can name even 1 song by them, I will be surprised. They were no "supergroup" folks - in retrospect maybe, but their records were heard by very few and sold to even fewer. Tweedy went on to form Wilco, who have become critical darlings and achieved Indie superstar status. Farrar formed Son Volt, who critics like fairly well, but their on again-off again existence has left them far behind the much more efficient Wilco in terms of star-power. I adore both bands, pretty much equally, but my sister Shannon has become one of the biggest Son Volt fans around. This is my favourite cut from their debut album, Trace. I love the melancholy everyman in Farrar's voice, very country-tinged to be sure, but this song rocks pretty hard as well. The guitar sound on this song, especially the string-bending lead, is brilliant and he can write a melody with the best of them. "As the pieces fall like candy when you're young, medicine when you're old." I'm getting to the medicine stage.....

7. Just - Radiohead

This song had perhaps the most haunting video ever - remember the one where the guy is laying on the street and people keep coming up and getting angry at him and asking why he is lying there? Then the end, where he says something that isn't subtitled, and to this day, nobody can say for sure what he says? Then, the really disturbing part at the end where all of those who had been questioning him end up lying down beside him in the street? Oh yeah, that video! Well, I love the song on its own merits too. There is the brilliant, breakneck guitar playing by Jonny Greenwood for starters, sounding so menacing and paranoid. Drummer Phil Selway crunches the skins so hard, I'll bet he had to change the heads after recording this tune. Thom Yorke uses his gorgeous voice to full effect too, singing about a friend who sounds rather annoying, and I can forgive him for spawning almost as many copycats as Eddie Vedder. "Can't get the stink off, he's been hanging round for days." You know what they say about guests and fish.....

6. Box Full Of Letters - Wilco

Here is the other guy from Uncle Tupelo with his band and their debut effort, AM. It is essentially Uncle Tupelo without Jay Farrar. They tread the same alt-country ground as well, but it is a great little tune. It showcases Jeff Tweedy's self-deprecating sense of humour, which is one of his enduring strengths. His singing sounds like that of a slacker-dude, but I like this as well. The lead guitar is played by Brian Henneman from the Bottle Rockets, who was hired specifically for this one album. Multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett would join the band for the tour to support this record and stay until after Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. "I just can't find the time to write my mind the way I want it to read." A mind is a terrible thing to taste.....

5. Floaty - Foo Fighters

This record would be among the biggest musical surprises I've ever encountered. I mean, Dave Grohl was buried behind all those drums and all that hair in Nirvana- a great drummer, but that he was a guy who was able to write, record, produce and play all the instruments on his own record? - no way! But, on this self-titled debut album, he did indeed do all of the above. I still love this album, probably my fave of 1995. On this song, there are roaring power chords, machine-gun precise drumming, and, another surprise, a huge melody that outdoes, for me anyway, anything Cobain ever did. He eventually hired a band and continues to make good solid records to this day. "He floats, floats away, on the ground, he comes back down." Todd Rundgren, eat your heart out!

4. Out Of The Sinking - Paul Weller

This song is taken from his 3rd solo record, considered by many to be his best, Stanley Road. Critics always comment on this album as being the one he returned to his roots on, but his roots were not bands like Traffic really. It sounds nothing like his true roots, The Kinks or The Who. The Traffic-vibe is further authenticated by the presence of Stevie Winwood playing organ on this album. This is a very rocking tune, with more guitar-jamming going on than any of his previous music. Once again, drummer Steve White gives me goosebumps, especially on the lead-in to the chorus, with his brilliant, jazzy rolls and fills. This is one of my top 10 Weller tracks ever for sure. "It is shining for me, all I need to be, but I can't find the key, the one to make me believe." Shine on you crazy diamond.....

3. Sick Of Myself - Matthew Sweet

I had liked his song Girlfriend back in '91 or '92, but I didn't know much about Matthew Sweet really. I loved this song right from my first listen. It is right in my wheelhouse though, a real true Power-Pop classic. From his 5th album, 100% Fun, this is all vintage tube amps and analog sound at its best. The melody is amazing, the lyrics too, and it is virtually impossible not to sing along to it. The sound of the guitars is outstanding, all garage-fuzz and distortion and the lead is played brilliantly by punk legend Richard Lloyd, late of the groundbreaking NYC band, Television. This is another record where the instruments are almost all played by 1 guy, and Sweet does a yeoman's job for sure. This was a big number on jam nights with my buddies Cope and Peesker back in those days. "I'm sick of myself when I look at you, something is beautiful and true. In a world that's ugly and a lie, it's hard to even want to try and I'm beginning to think, baby you don't know." Once again, I wish I'd written that.....

2. Nautical Disaster - The Tragically Hip

This track is on my fave album by these guys, Day For Night. There is a much darker feel to Gord Downie's lyrics on this record, and they aimed for a more adventurous musical side as well. This song is pretty much Hip-by-numbers though, but what numbers they are! It is written from the point of view of a guy having a nightmare and then waking up to find out it is all too real, that his life is the nautical disaster of his nightmare. The urgency and paranoia of the lyrics, delivered in his own singular way by Downie, paint a vivid portrait for the listener. The band does their usual workmanlike job here, but bassist Gord Sinclair stands out with his high-neck playing, especially near the end as the songs plays out with a long jam session. "The selection was quick, the crew was picked in order and those left in the water got kicked off our pantleg and we headed for home." Shudder to think...

1. Morning Glory - Oasis

This is the Gallagher brothers finest hour, or 5:03, as it were. The way it starts, with the screeching guitars, whirring helicopters, and pounding drums, then just kicks in with those roaring guitars - whew! Liam doesn't sound snotty on this song. His voice is almost melodic and carries with it an almost palpable hint of regret or remorse. The brothers were hyped daily in the media, certainly in the U.K., where they were the biggest band in the land. The melody is, as usual, very catchy and simple, which is Noel's main strength as a songwriter. He gleefully plagiarizes from all his heroes, but it is OK because he is so reverential, even throwing in the title of his fave Beatles tune, Tomorrow Never Knows. This was the end of Oasis for me as I feel they never came near this kind of fantastic song again. So, I made it #1 on my list for '95 because it is just a great song, no argument. "Another sunny afternoon, walking to the sound of my favourite tune, tomorrow never knows what it doesn't know too soon." Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream.....