Monday, January 29, 2007

A Monday roundup of songs that have been prominent in my life as of late. I'm coming down with a cold/flu I believe which is something like the third one in less than six months. Apparently my immune system is crashing. maybe i should have got a flu shot.

Roommate Luke recently came home with the complete first season of Saturday Night Live. I watched a little bit of the first episode this weekend, featuring Paul Simon. A few remarks: The episode is 80% Paul Simon performances, 20% comedy skits. How great is that. That could never happen on television these days. Some great performances. His performance of American Tune really caught my ears. Go here to see a live performance from around the same time, though not from SNL.

Paul Simon - American Tune from There Goes Rhymin' Simon (1973)

On Thursday I took a trip over to Guelph for the night to visit some new friends. We went out that night and I heard this instantly danceable Cure song that broke my heart. Never really listened to the Cure (I know, I know) but I went out Saturday and picked up The Head on the Door , from where you can find the aforementioned song.

The Cure - Close to Me

Lucinda Williams finally hit her stride on 1996's Car wheels on a Gravel Road. Drunken Angel really sits well with me lately. I feel like I should pontificate more elaborately but my energy level is nil right now. Accept my apologies and love it for your own reasons.

Lucinda Williams - Drunken Angel

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Higher Calling Blues

This week's installment of 'i got them higher calling blues' features the sounds of Ira and Charlie Louvin and The Byrds.

The Louvin Brothers wrote and recorded the song on their 1960 album Satan is Real, while the Byrds covered itfor their seminal '68 album Sweetheart of the Rodeo. The song concerns the choosing of a Christian way over the the temptations of another. Straightforward and confident in its decision the song reflects that "my buddies shun me since I turned to Jesus/they say I'm missing a whole world of fun." However, the repeated declaration of "I like the Christian life" affirms the young man's decision.

Some folks might find it hard to get behind such a blunt religious song, especially if your beliefs don't follow the same rhetoric. For me, its appeal is due in part to its matter of fact confidence.

Louvin Brothers - Christian Life
The Byrds - Christian Life (mp3)

Satan Is Real on Amazon
Sweetheart of the Rodeo on Amazon

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Today's offering comes courtesy of David Vandervelde. DV is Chicago based rocker, aged 22, who just released his debut offering, The Moonstation House Band, yesterday. Recorded under the mentor ship of Jay Bennett of ex-Wilco fame, Vandervelde is drawing a lot of comparisons to 70's glam heroes such as Marc Bolan , Eno, Bowie, etc., etc. Channelling his heroes, Vandervelde crafts a compelling album that is engaging enough to pique your interest and give you something to have faith in regarding the future of that little shuffle they call rock and roll.

What initially piqued my ears to David was the great cover he did of the Stones' Cocksucker Blues for a session over on Daytrotter. I dig the story behind Cocksucker Blues. The Stones offered it to Decca Records in 1970 as the the last single to complete their contract. Decca didn't release it, due possibly to the foul language contained within, or possibly because, oh I don't know, a slow blues about a schoolboy in the big city fucking and sucking for survival (or worse, for desire) ain't exactly the most commercial stuff. The chorus of "Where can I get my dick sucked/Where can I get my ass fucked" is either gleefully hilarious or eerily sums up late night lust.

If I dare say, David gives a performance on the song that either equals or surpasses Mick & Co.
You can go on over and stream the new album in its entirety if dipping your big toe in the big 'ol swimming pool before you take a dive is your thing. Should be able to to find him in your local record store unless your clerk was too excited about that Shins album to remember to do his job.

Curl up to your record player with that groovy chick of yours and in-between the rockers, get all intense about "that bastard Nixon and the damn war in Vietnam." You can also get the album straight from his label, Secretly Canadian. Unlike them folks, I'm actually Canadian, so I got no secrets to conceal. David's doing a few shows in the Chicago and NYC areas in the coming weeks before heading over to the UK before coming back mid-March for SXSW. if that's where you reside, wouldn't be a bad idea to go say hello. All the pertinent info is available via his website or myspace.

David Vandervelde - Nothin' No
David Vandervelde - Cocksucker Blues
Rolling Stones - Cocksucker Blues

Monday, January 22, 2007

Fox Jaws (formerly Doris Day) hail from Barrie, Ontario, which also happens to be my hometown. Barrie may not exactly be known as a thriving bastion of rock and roll, yet there i was a few years back standing in an upscale dinner joint turned rock and roll heavy getting my heart handed to me by this sextet. The deal was sealed a few hours later when they proceeded to invite the whole bar back to their digs for a dance party that worked its way into the wee hours as these things tend to do.

So this is the part where you ask why you should be listening to Fox Jaws instead of whatever "X" indie rock and roll band. Which is followed by us saying "The music speaks for itself, maaaan." (Snarl sold separately). 'Course, if you're already here, let us indulge you.

We could call it anthemic indie-pop. We could talk about their knockout live performances (complete with the most spell-binding cover of Under Pressure you'll ever hear aside from the Thin White Duke himself). We could talk about how we haven't heard sexier female vox since Alannah Myles soundtracked our childhood road trips with Black Velvet. We could talk about how, in the tradition of small town bands before them, they stumble upon truth in only the way big-hearted kids with visions of that big city glow can. There's a warmth in their music that finds you in the blizzard and kills the chill, stops the chatter. Of course, we could also just say, the music speaks for itself.

In those ensuing years, the Fox Jaws gang have been building up a steady reputation for this and so much more. They are currently readying their full-length debut. Time and date to be announced, so I'll keep you folks updated. They've got a couple dates starting in mid-March. It looks their website is currently undergoing some revamping, so instead head on over to myspace to learn more and hear some tracks.

We included their composition Karmonica in our year end reviews. I'll re-post it for you kids too lazy to track back. Also included is Warm Winter Coats. Both tracks are highly recommended. Head on over to that myspace to hear a couple more tracks.

Fox Jaws - Karmonica
Fox Jaws - Warm Winter Coats

On a personal note I wanted to say congrats to my sister Lesley who finished with a bronze at the Canadian figure skating championships in Halifax over the weekend. Not being an athlete myself, I have but a small understanding of the dedication and training it takes to compete at the highest level of her sport. The small amount I do know leads me to believe that my sister is in better shape and kick the ass of anyone who ignorantly doesn't know the difference between a triple loop and a triple axle. She finished third last year and narrowly missed an Olympic berth, which was pretty hard for her as anyone who has ever been that close to their dream can imagine. Nonetheless, she bounced back, and had two great performances this week. There's a great article in the Toronto Star you can read here if you like. They call her a "scrapper in sequins," which we really like. And that's all for this extremely doting brother. But hey, she's a pretty big deal.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

If you folks remember just before the break we started a new Thursday serial just before the holidays. Now that the break and end of the year posts are out of the way we can get back to that for you. The segment will be called I got them higher calling blues . As I said earlier it's a pretty open format that aims to cover some of our favourite songs in the gospel/religious tradition. By no means is this going to be a sunday service folks. We're talking rock and roll music concerned with some of those big questions.

RecentlyI've been listening to Bob Dylan's so-called gospel albums. Most people have either heard or heard of Slow Train Coming. That's the album that finally netted Bobby his first Grammy. The two albums that directly followed and completed his "religious phase" were 1980's Saved and '81's Shot of Love. Criticized by many during this time for buying into organized religion, the criticisms are probably rooted in the old guard of Dylan fans uncomfortable with Bob praising the same God he once seemingly forsaked. Religious themes were clearly not a new thing for him. His lyrics prior to this have often called on religious theme and symbolism and have often alluded to a spirituality of the Judeo/Christian type.

The album begins with the Red Hayes/Jack Rhodes composition A Satisfied Mind. All sparse piano keys and slow drawl as Dylan hums, "it's so hard to find/one rich man in ten with a satisfied mind." The title track is a funky number that echoes the chorus of "I've been saved/by the blood of the lamb/..And I just wanna thank you lord/I Just wanna thank you Lord." The last number for today is Pressing On. Situated midway through the album, the track is a burning ember of resilience. He offers no apologies for the wrongs he committed in the past, "Because He sinned I got no choice, it run in my vein." Really the centrepiece of the album and what Kurt Loder called "the melodic descendant of the Band's 'The Weight.'"

A Satisfied Mind
Pressing On

On an unrelated note, for those London area readers. The Weather Underground are releasing their new (and first) album tonight at The Salt Lounge. No doubt you'll be able to pick up Ontario the Chemical while you're there. A great group of guys I'm really proud of and excited to see the finished product. You can stream some tracks on their myspace here. We'll have a writeup next week about the band and new cd so stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Year End Review part 4

Artist: The Grates
Song: 19-20-20
Album: Gravity Won't Get You High (2006)

Australian band The Grates exhibit a punk energy and like most punk records these days fail to stand up to repeated listens, assuming you can stand repeated listening. They may not re-invent the wheel here, but their contagious energy makes for decent pogo pop songs.

Artist: Jason Molina
Song: Everything Should Try Again
Album: Let Me Go, Let Me Go, Let Me Go (2006)

I'm not overly familiar with a lot of Molina's work. Be it his old Songs: Ohia moniker, Magnolia Electric Co., or simply as Jason Molina. Everything is a particularly biting critique of another's depression. "Ever been tired/Ever been a little sick/Ever tried working through it."

Artist: Daniel Johnston
Song: Ain't No Woman Gonna Make A George Jones Outta Me

If, like me, your knowledge of Daniel Johnston is limited, I suggest checking out the great documentary from last year The Devil and Daniel Johnston. Now available on DVD, it separates a lot fact from fiction without completely dispelling the myth. Intensely low-fi music as seen through the children's soul of this manic depressive. Check out his back catalogue, now easier to find than ever before (I saw some in a Sunrise records the other day for fuck sakes) and get on the D train.

Artist: The Killers
Song: When You Were Young
Album: Sam's Town (2006)

Maybe you're like me and you have a love/hate relationship with the Killers. Image heavy and arrogant at times, Brandon Flowers didn't win any fans when he claimed prior to Sam's Town's release that it would be the best album of the past 20 years. That would fulfil the hate part. The love? Catchy songs like this one that are perfect examples on how to write a hit. I can't say the album failed to live up to my expectations. I never really put much stock in it. The Killers are bound to be around for awhile. My over/under for good songs per album is 2 and I think this is pretty bang on. Now taking bets on how long before Bruce Springsteen asks the band for his shtick back.

Artist: Beck
Song: Nausea
Album: The Information (2006)

Beck makes us white boys dance. It may look like bastardized versions of Michael Jackson; still, we dance.

Artist: Regina Spektor
Song: Fidelity
Album: Begin To Hope (2006)

'Cause it breaks you ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-heart.

Artist: Jenn Grant
Song: Dreamer

We talked about Jenn Grant in December. She's got an album coming out in a few months. Check the December archives for a full writeup.

Artist: Sleater Kinney
Song: Modern Girl
Album: The Woods (2005)

Never been a huge Sleater Kinney fan to be honest. they do mean a whole lot to a lot of people. they decided to call it quits this year. Aging riot grrrls wept. My old zine did too.

Artist: Neko Case
Song: Teenage Feeling
Album: Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (2006)

Expect a new New Pornographers album later in the year. When it does come out feel free to complain about how there is never enough Neko. Just a beautiful song about never settling for love.

Artist: Hilary & Haylie Duff
Song: Our Lips Are Sealed

We make no bones about this song about the Duff sisters. A cover of The Go-Go's original, the song is pretty much a note for note take on the original. Still, we love it. I had a habit of blaring this all summer sometime during my morning routine. My summer roommates would just walk by with shaking heads. The guilty pleasure is a bankrupt concept.

Artist: Holly Golightly w/ The Greenhornes
Song: There Is An End

This song comes from the soundtrack to Jim Jarmusch directed/Bill Murray starring film, Broken Flowers. Like many, I first came across Holly through her work with The White Stripes. The Greenhornes have a relationship with Jack and Meg that goes back a number of years, as tour mates, friends, and members of a mutual appreciation society. Currently, 2/3's of The Greenhornes are making up the rhythm section of The Raconteurs.

Artist: Sunset Rubdown
Song: They Took A Vote And Said No
Album: Shut Up I Am Dreaming (2006)

Although I initially hated this album I came back to revisit it after some time apart. Came to be one of my favourite releases of '06.

Artist: Bob Dylan
Song: Thunder on the Mountain & Can You Please Crawl Out Through Your Window
Album: Modern Times (2006)

Easily one of the most celebrated albums of the year. Bobby D is enjoying a resurgence in critical acclaim over the past few years. Chalk that up to the self-penned Chronicles bio, Scorsese's No Direction Home documentary, and Dylan still making vital recordings. Thunder on the Mountain finds Dylan in a playful mood, having a good chuckle as he lets us know Alicia Keys has been on his mind, as well as expounding on the state of the world in general. A great rollicking number that catches you in the chest and takes over your hips.

So that's it. That's the end of the look back on '06. Probably a bit over-reaching and unnecessary at this late stage but I felt I should get it off the books before I could start fresh in 2007. Looking forward to the year. Thanks for reading everybody.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Year End Review Part 3

Artist: Christina Aguilera
Song: Ain't No Other Man
Album: Back to Basics (2006)

I'll admit right now to being completely head over heels in love with the new Christina Aguilera. She's said goodbye to the teen pop and slutty images. As the title of the album suggests, the former genie in a bottle is returning to her roots. Gospel, R & B, and pop, with a huge smacking of soul. The album was a bit bloated at two discs, but still, a triumphant return for Christina. Ain't No Other Man packs a massive wallop, sultry and all curves.

Artist: Joel Plaskett
Song: Nowhere With You

The song was included on the bonus EP that accompanied his Make a Little Noise live dvd. It was also heard all over your tv sets as a commercial for K-Mart. If you're one of those types you might cry sellout. Of course, that means you'd be ignoring as great a pop song as Joel's ever done. And that would make you a douche.

Artist: The Hold Steady
Song: Stuck Between Stations
Album: Boys and Girls in America (2006)

The third release from The Hold Steady was easily the most hyped on the blogosphere this year. While I'd argue it failed to surpass their previous work, it was still an inspired effort. Lyricist Craig Finn is a rock and roll Kerouac. And like the authour was for his generation, Finn is a vital voice to understanding ours.

Artist: Weezer
Song: Perfect Situation
Album: Make Believe (2005)

I haven't bought a Weezer album since Pinkerton. I though the first two singles from this album, Beverly Hills and We Are All On Drugs, to be two more sad indications of how far from the path the band has strayed. Then they go ahead and release this gem. As the video for the song informs us, Before there was Weezer, there was Weeze. This is the emo song every emo band wishes they wrote. Perhaps all that time spent in women's jeans cuts off their creativity. In '06 Rivers Cuomo finally graduated from Harvard, got married, and put Weezer on "hiatus," which might be like doing the right thing and taking Old Yeller out of his misery.

Artist: Cadence Weapon
Song: Black Hand
Album: Breaking Kayfabe (2006)

Known to his mother as Rollie Pemberton, Cadence Weapon released his debut album this year to great fanfare. He was nominated for the inaugural Polaris Music award and although he didn't take home the award this could hardly be considered a setback. Critics and fans love him for his intelligent brand of hip hop that skirts the usual shit. On a good night, he's like a revelation.

Artist: Bruce Springsteen
Song: Pay Me My Money Down
Album: We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (2006)

A lot of the rock royalty were getting political this year. Bruce stopped by with his collection of Pete Seeger songs. The whole album feel like a raucous back alley jam. The songs are essentially timeless, although Bruce does do a bit of updating, "Well I wish that I was Mr. Gates/ they'd haul my money home in crates." A Great effort from the Boss.

Artist: Cat Power
Song: Could We
Album: The Greatest (2006)

For Cat Power fans this shall be known as the year Chan Marshall got sober. By most accounts her live shows are no longer the train wrecks of yore, which is definitely a good thing. Cat Power tends to be good for rainy days. Rainy days nursing a broken heart, even better. Recorded in Memphis with a band of veteran players, Chan crafted a country drenched effort that may not be her Opus, but certainly bodes well for the future.

Artist: Corinne Bailey Rae
Song: Put Your Records On
Album: Corinne Bailey Rae (2006)

Corinne Bailey Rae had a great year on the heels of her first album. Nominated for Best song, record, and new artist of the year at the upcoming Grammy awards, Rae will probably have a fruitful career as a popular artist. My tendencies tend to lead me away from middle of the road popsters, or what I assume to be middle of he road popsters. Judging a book by its cover and all that. I was going throwing the racks at an HMV one day and I hear this track. Asked about it and went home and downloaded it. This is the only song I've heard by her. Anyone out there with a strong endorsement? I probably shouldn't be so judgemental, I did , after all, praise Ms. Aguilera a few tracks back. This tune sits with me real well. Such a beautiful pop song.

Artist: Nelly Furtado
Song: Crazy

Here Ms. Furtado covers that Gnarls Barkley so that everyone didn't hear everywhere this summer. I've also heard a Ray Lamontagne give it a shot. All versions are great in their own right. I really enjoy seeing artists cover their peers. Hey, I'm a sucker for Neil Young covers too, it just seems that artists today are afraid to touch the work of their contemporaries. It seems to be much less prevalent today, then say, 40 years ago. Nelly had a pretty big year with the success of her own Maneater album. I've never been a huge fan of Nels, always liked her singles though. Hated her whole, Promiscuous Boy, persona. Lazy fuckin' club anthems. Utter and complete shit. And don't even give me the 'ol "has a good beat" excuse.

Artist: Elliott Brood
Song: The Bridge & Only At Home

Elliott Brood plays "death country" whatever that is. Country-tinged i suppose, but sounds a bit darker. Either that or him and his band are either zombies or terminally ill. The first track comes from the LP Ambassador, originally released in 2005, but re-released in '06. The second one is from the EP Tin Type from 2004. Both are great and highly recommended. Boo-tiful stuff. Get it, "boo" tiful. Oh boy, I'm good. Cut. It. Out

Artist: Loose Fur
Song: Hey Chicken
Album: Born Again in the U.S.A. (2006)

Comprised of Jeff Tweedy, Glenn Kotche, and Jim O' Rourke. Really just a side project for everyone to get their ya-ya's out on. A bit too heavy on all the instrumentation added. Still, a decent effort for a side project. The lead track, included here, is a playful rocker. Rock and Roll. That's all baby.

Artist: The Black Keys
Song: Your Touch
Album: Magic Potion (2006)

The BK's play the modern day blues. I find it hard to sit through a full album, even Magic Potion, which was a great effort. Still, If I'm trolling through the blogs and I see talk of the band, I will always take the time to read and listen to what they've been doing. They rarely disappoint.

Artist: The Pipettes
Song: ABC
Album: We Are The Pipettes (2006)

If I were to compile a list of my favourite artists I'm sure the Ronettes would show up in the top ten. Though I have indie tastes I'm clearly a fan of pop music. A weird term that has certainly taken on a negative connotation since rock and pop supposedly went their separate ways. When I say pop you probably conjure up American Idol visions, which is okay, even if it is false. The Beatles, Beach Boys, Oasis, Wilco, White Stripes, they all play pop music. It can also be called rock and roll. Hell, it could be described a million ways, but at its base, its all pop music. I know folks who won't listen to music if it doesn't fit into the parameters they have decided they enjoy. It has gotten to the point where I lie to them in describing the genre the artist supposedly belongs in, just so they will give it a listen. The term "guilty pleasure" was spawned from this kind of thinking. I mean, why be able to simply say you enjoy an artist or type of music without ruining your ego or credibility. I love the Ronettes, in fact I've got a soft spot for a lot of those sixties girl groups. The Pipettes are a throwback to that era. They reference Andy Partridge among others, all with a wink, which hooks some of the indie kids. I'm hooked 'cause they're fun. No pretensions. Just rock and roll music with a shake.

Artist: Belle & Sebastian
Song: The Blues are Still Blue
Album: The Life Pursuit (2006)

Not a huge B & S fan. I'll pull out an album every couple months and then put it back halfway through. Their latest is full of great singles. Sometimes that's all you really want anyways.

Artist: Shotgun & Jaybird
Song: Marquee Glass
Album: There Are Days and Then There Are Days (2006)

Shot and Jay also released a full-length later in the year. Bound to get Pavement comparisons
every now and again. The two piece, comprised of Shotgun Jimmie and Dick Morello, with JulieDoiron on guesting vocals, here, craft lo-fi music that sounds like even you could have made in your bedroom. Here's the thing, you can't. As our mother repeatedly told us growing up (and which we'll pass on to you), "you're worthless. I don't even know why I had you."

Artist: The Bicycles
Song: Gotta Get Out
Album: The Good, The Bad, and The Cuddly (2006)

Terrible album name, though apt. The Bicycles are cuddly. And cute too. They wear matching "B" shirts on stage. They write carefree songs that make you go "weeeeee." I'd go have a popsicle now if I didn't have that weird phobia of popsicle sticks. Too saccharine? You decide.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Year End Review Part 2

Artist: Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan
Song: Honey Child What Can I Do
Album: Ballad of the Broken Seas (2006)

An unlikely album pairing, ex-Belle and Sebastien vocalist Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees fame. Beauty and the Beast, etc. It works though, especially on this track.

Artist: Lucinda Williams
Song: 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten
Album: Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (1998)

Lucinda's somewhat of a perfectionist. Finally released six years after her last effort, Lucinda switched producers and cities three times before settling on the right recordings and songs. It payed off though, earning her a Grammy award and cementing her position as country music royalty. A girl I had a crush on used to sign my yearbook every year with the song title set up as a mathematical equation. I received the album as a gift this year. Beautiful and heartbreaking.

Artist: Ryan Adams
Song: Look Who's Got A Website & English Girls Approximately

Adams had a pretty good 2005, he released three studio albums to generally favourable response. No one would have held it against him if he took off 2006. Instead, he released a thousand albums (more like 11) on his website. The songs, released under various personas/ alternate personalities? walk a fine line between terribly awful and terribly genius. To my knowledge the songs are still streaming, head on over there to hear for yourself.

Artist: Sam Roberts
Song: The Gate
Album: Chemical City (2006)

Hugely popular in Canada but still relatively unknown in the States, The Sam Roberts Band, as they are known south of the 49th, released their second album this year. Largely unfulfilling though it was, the lead single was as much of a shit kicker as I heard all year.

Artist: Yo La Tengo
Song: Sugarcube

Yo La Tengo released the coolest named album of the year (possibly the longest also), I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass. I loved the new album and started warming up to some of their back catalogue. Still, my favourite track by them, all time, still has to be this one.

Artist: Syd Barrett
Song: Bob Dylan Blues

When Syd passed away this year the obits overwhelmingly mourned what could have been. It's not like Pink Floyd really suffered from his departure, hell, some of their best songs post-Syd were inspired by Syd's troubles. I guess it's just a shame he couldn't be along for the ride. I'd recommend checking out his solo material, especially if you're not a big fan of the Pink Floyd sound, which I am not. That's where this tribute to Bob Dylan comes from.

Artist: White Denim
Song: shakeshakeshake

Both the band and song sum up the kind of bands and songs you're gonna encounter in the blogosphere. Generally like fast food, that is, immediately appetizing but over time immensely unfulfilling. Still...yummy.

Artist: Dolly Parton
Song: Travellin' Thru

I'm not sure how Dolly feels about this song losing to It's Hard out Here for a Pimp for best song at the 2006 Academy Awards. I'm sure that Dolly would have a sense of humour about it. She'd even probably do that cute little giggle if asked to comment on it. Dolly wrote it for Transamerica, starring Felicity Huffman.

Artist: Be Your Own Pet
Song: Bunk Trunk Skunk
Album: Self-Titled (2006)

The full-length debut from teenage buzz band BYOP. Hard, fast, edgy, angsty, and other adjectives. Punk music by teens for everyone. Instantly charming with lyrics like, "I'm wicked rad and I'm here/To steal away your virginity."

Artist: M. Ward
Album: Post War (2006)
Songs: Magic Trick & Chinese Translation

Two great songs off an incredible album. Old time sounds, but incredibly contemporary. Ward's past records have often been steeped in a heartbreaking melancholy. On this effort though, a refreshing optimism shines through. If I were to pick a favourite for the year this would be it.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Year End Review Part 1

Artist: Wilco
Song: I Got You (At the End of the Century)
Album: Being There (1996)


Song: Kicking Television
Album: Kicking Television (2005)
Although the band didn't release a studio proper in '06, they were very much on the scene. A succesful canadian tour, a solo Tweedy DVD, and the promise of a new album in '07. The year also marked my transformation from Wilco interested to super Wilco fan. For my money, Jeff Tweedy is the most important contemporary songwriter of our times. There are very few on the same level as he.

Artist: Bob Dylan
Album: 30th Anniversary Celebration
Song: My Back Pages
This is a great live song from "Bobfest." I watched the concert film earlier in the year and really got stuck on this song. Featuring Tom Petty, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Roger McGuinn, and Bobby, the song takes its cue from the faster tempoed Byrds version. Each artist takes a verse, with Bob seemingly content to strum along in the background. When Dylan rambles up to the mike, the crowd loses their shit. A real thing of beauty.

Artist: The Replacements
Song: Androgynous
Album: Let It Be (1984)
I would never have considered myself a 'Mats fan. I picked up Tim a few years back real cheap from a Best Buy. Wholly impressed, I relegated the band to the back of my mind. Sometimes fate intervenes to give you a second chance, in this case, in the form of a bargain bin find I couldn't resist. I put Let It Be on and had one of those experiences you can only have the one time. That first listen to an album and almost instantly you just feel it's perfect. It's not flawless, but perfect in its own right. My favourite song would have to be this one. It slows the album down for a moment and to my knowledge the best song about cross dressing love. Also, the only song I know about cross dressing love.

Artist: Rogue Wave
Song: Eyes
This song, featured on the Just Friends soundtrack, is in the spirit of Dylan's You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go. A man misses a failed relationship. He accepts this fact as a positive, but still misses these things about his lady. "I'm washing my hands of attachements/I will land on the ground/But one thing I'm missing is in your eyes". Definitely bittersweet. Rogue Wave had a tough year with drummer Pat Sturgeon requiring a costly kidney transplant. The band rallied with a benefit concert in September to raise funds. If you go to their site you can make a donation. You can also make sure you give serious thought to signing your donor card.

Artist: Munk feat. James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem
Song: Kick Out The Chairs
A remix by Munk of the original by Danish band WhomadeWho. This track is old school funk meets the dance electro we got accustomed to on Murphy's 2005 eponymous debut. While 2007 will bring the follow up, Sounds of Silver, the past year we were placated by this and Murphy's 45:33, a workout music collaboration with Nike. If working out to James Murphy (or working out in general) isn't your thing, then '07 shall be right up your alley. Kick out them chairs muthafucka.

Artist: Paul Simon
Song: Paranoia Blues
Album: Paul Simon
Sitting in a practically empty club in April and watching my favourite Deadly Snake, Andre Ethier, quietly paint the walls with quiet folk pop and earnest love (is there any other kind?) Andre plays a cover of this Paul Simon tune, which through his eyes is a lot more paranoid.
Crazy, eh? Four months later the Deadly Snakes break up and lovers of soulful rock and roll shed a quiet tear. But not before the Snakes send themselves off with one last legendary performance. Get yourself acquainted.

Artist: Desmond Dekker
Song: Israelites
Reasons you should love Desmond Dekker : He was the self-apointed King of Ska. Israelites was the first reggae song to go #1 in the Uk charts in 1968. He had an album named Black & Dekker. The original Rude Boy was the most prominent Jamaican artist prior to Bob Marley; laying the groundwork for future artists. Sadly, he passed away on May 25th at the age 0f 64.

Artist: The Decemberists
Song: 16 Military Wives
Album: Picaresque (2005)
A lot of Decemberists fans waited with bated breath for the band's major label debut in 2006. Thankfully, The Crane Wife , lived up to expectations and then some. It showed up in and around the top on many a year-end list. They also had an epic battle for rock supremacy with Stephen Colbert. This was the song that drew me off the fence and into the Decemberists camp. Check out the video for the song. Scathing and hilarious.

Artist: Fox Jaws
Song: Karmonica
Album: untitled '07 release
Fox Jaws are a Barrie-based band I'm expecting big things from in the future. A proper writeup soon. For now, just listen. Is that a harmonica you hear? No sir, sonny boy, that's a karmonica. Groovy

Artist: Devandra Banhart
Song: Fistful of Love
Off the covers record that accompanied the 2005 Music/Summer issue of Believer magazine. Devandra takes on the Antony and the Johnsons original. My roomate played this for me a while back and I didn't think much of it. To be fair, I only listened to a snippet and i wasn't really in the mood to listen anyways. Fast forward a year or two and I'm enjoying the quiet peace of 3am. I toss this on and bang, the planets align or something. Proper amounts of pain and anguish, longing and yelps. Completely destroys the original.

Artist: Apostle of Hustle
Song: My Sword Hand's Anger
The first track from the upcoming National Anthem of Nowhere. I felt that 2004's Folkloric Feel was a pretty uneven affair. If they restrain the tendency to noodle off and choke back those songs we could have something worthwile here. I really love this track right now, which makes me super excited for the release. They've got a month long weekly residency at the Rivoli starting January 24th. Might be time to take a trip.

Artist: Viva Voce
Song: From the Devil Himself
Album: Get Yr Blood Sucked Out (2006)
I profiled Pat & Anita Robinson earlier in the year. Incredibly tight, especially considering it's a two-piece. Double driving attack but not afraid to show their melodic side. One of my favourite records of the year. In a thin year for new discoveries for me, Viva Voce really stood out.

Artist: The Be Good Tanyas
Song: For The Turnstiles
Album: Hello Love (2006)
The Tanyas turn out another excellent roots record. Bound to be overlooked (and it was) as arguments of too many covers, not enough originals, reign. If every country music star listened to this record we'd have a unprecedented string of artists blowing their brains out. This is real country music and few have the talent the Tanyas do. Here they cover a Neil Young song off '74's On The Beach. They don't match Neil Young's mournful mood, which might be a good thing anyway. Leave it to the master. Faithful, yet fresh.

Monday, January 08, 2007

2007 is a week old and the air of optimism is still strong. And while we use the start of the new year to look ahead, this is also the time for reflection. How can you look to correct your faults without identifying where you erred in the first place? How can you look to new and bigger success without building on your previous triumphs, however small you imagine them to be?

So while I look forward to a new year of blogging, I think it would be a serious error not to acknowledge the past one. I spent a good deal of December reading numerous best of the year type lists. While the individual position's may have altered from list to list, for the most part there seemed to be some consensus choices. I don't really wish to add my own picks in this way. Overkill and all that. Reading another list of some one's favourite artists/albums/songs of the year is unnecessary at this point. I wanted to do something a bit different and fresh, so I decided upon this. Over the next week I will be sharing some of my favourite music of the year. While it will be a review of sorts of 2006, by no means are the artists and songs limited to the past year. Instead I'll be sharing music that simply entered into my life sometime within the last year.

One of my greatest pleasures in life is discovering a new song by an artist. It could be a track buried somewhere in a popular artist's catalogue that I had never cared to explore. It could be a great tune from a new artist with a bright future or the intelligent work of a legend remaining ever so relevant. It could be a song you may have heard before and never paid attention to, maybe you wrote it off completely, then suddenly that one time, the song hits you like a gunshot and a wave of realization rolls over you.

The best songs of the year don't have to be limited to the ones that came out that year. The best songs of the year are the ones that made their way to you in that time. Lists, however critical they claim to be, are truly subjective. Lest we forget that as I take you through my own. At this point I plan to share in the neighbourhood of 50 + songs with you. A bit long-winded I'm sure, but honestly, you should have seen my original plan for this. I'll post the first batch Monday evening, and go from there every day this week. Stay tuned.