I used to do this every year, but it’s been a minute. But after a 5-ish year hiatus, let’s dive in again. 2022 seemed to be particularly good year for music. In no particular order, here’s the music released in 2022 that I really enjoyed:
Alvvays – Blue Rev
This one will probably show up on a bunch of lists this year. A more or less perfect indie-pop confection with not a single miss on it, it felt like a classic from first listen. According to Apple Music, my 2nd-most listened to album, bested only by my perennial favourite Boxer by The National.
Danger Mouse & Black Thought – Cheat Codes
I’m not sure Danger Mouse has put out a project I haven’t liked, but working with Black Thought, of The Roots, this album is really special. There’s not a lot of albums whose lyrics sending me to and endless rabbit hole of learning, but probably I should expect this from Black Thought. I only knew him from The Roots, but the best thing this album did is send me down a rabbit hole of his stellar solo work too.
Wet Leg – Wet Leg
Chaise Longue was deservedly everywhere for a bit, and the whole album works. It’s bleak and funny, and both makes me feel old and makes me wish I lived in a shitty flat in London just trying to figure life out.
Jockstrap – I Love You Jennifer B
I heard this for the first time only a month ago, but I can’t get it out my head. It’s got a sort of tongue-in-cheek retro-vibe. It might be a little bit too smart, in that it’s clear the band knows their music, but it’s a great listen.
Harry Styles – Harry’s House
Chosen almost entirely for how perfect a pop song As it Was is, but the whole album holds together. I remain suspicious of most heavily manufactured pop music, but this is good.
SZA – SOS
I appreciate SZA’s commitment to short album names. Coming after Ctrl, this is a lo-fi masterpiece that deepens her control over the mood & tone. It feels like a post-breakup, but post-anger when she’s just done much of the time. Well worth a close-listen on headphones for some really incredible production.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Cool it Down.
I can’t believe that it’s been nearly a decade since their last and this comes out and just.. picks up like nothing changed. Somehow feeling both nostalgic for that early 10’s Indie rock scene but also just moving past it, this album was a kind of safe place to revisit the sounds I love. Which.. maybe doesn’t sound like praise? But it is. Karen O can do no wrong.
The Smile – A Light For Attracting Attention
Sure, it might be the best bits of Radiohead channelling pre- OK Computer brit-rock Radiohead but man is it it GOOD. I’m a big Sons of Kemet fan, and is often the case, the drumming by Tom Skinner here really sets this apart, and pulls this out of early-Radiohead nostalgia into something deeply contemporary and of the moment.
Maggie Rogers – Surrender
Do you remember that video clip of a music-school kid who really impressed Pharrell? That was Maggie Rogers, 6 years back. This album, recorded while in pandemic isolation, as a sort of musical companion to her masters of Divinity? anyway. it’s gorgeous, subtle, electronic folk.
Big Thief – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You
An album as maximalist as the title, this album has a folk-rock heart and a sort of scrolling-through-TikTok kaleidoscope of sounds, feelings, imagery. It’s a big album, from a band at the top of their game and was on repeat for most of the first half of the year for me.
These aren’t “the best”, just ones I like. And I’m pretty-much ignoring hip-hop/soul here, because that is a real void in my musical knowledge. The impetus was listening to the first one, and thinking about other tracks I keep coming back to.
1. Gil Scott-Heron “New York City”
This album was my intro to Gil Scott-Heron. I’m pretty sure I found it amongst my uncle’s album collection as a kid while visiting. It was on a mix-tape I made from his collection, and I played that cassette until a dying Walkman destroyed nearly a decade later.
3. LCD Soundsystem “New York I love you, but you’re bringing me down”
(NB: pretty sure that’s not an official video, but how could you not love it?) This song is also peak LCD Soundsystem.
4. Lou Reed “Walk on the Wild Side”
Could any list about NYC music not contain a Lou Reed song? I probably could have chosen any number by him. But this, while an obvious choice, is the soundtrack of when I think about the New York that was.
5. Leonard Cohen “Chelsea Hotel No. 2”
Like Lou Reed’s track, this is a hymn to what was, only from the singer’s viewpoint, a leisurely look back to days long gone.
Honourable Mention – Ryan Adams “New York, New York”
This song, with the lyric “hell I still love you New York” was ubiquitous in the wake the of September 11th, 2001 (the video was shot apparently just days before). I had to put it down for a while because of that, but I’ve recently been rediscovering Ryan Adams, and this song along with it.
[note: you can see my previous editions in the Albums of the year tag – also, I’ve embedded the playlist (of a top 20, but I won’t discuss them all, below].
So, like other years, here’s the top 10, in alphabetical order by artist.
Arcade Fire – Everything Now
I really wasn’t sold on this album on first listen. It came out while we were in Germany, so got a lot of play in the car…and, well, nothing really stood out. But then I saw them in concert this fall & I got it. This is a live album. The songs, all fine in headphones, suddenly come to life in concert. Playing them loud on a good system is also rewarding as there’s a lot of depth and subtleties to the tracks. It quickly went from an also-ran to an absolute favourite this year.
Julien Baker – Turn Out the Lights
Perhaps the most achingly personal album of the year. Julien Baker’s songs of ache, longing and defiance as she deals with the fallout from (if I understand correctly) turning to sobriety is both sad, gut-wrenching and incredibly powerful. Weirdly, despite the material, I find it a hopeful album. Defiance in face of terribleness that really suited 2017. It’s a turn-out-the-lights (oh, i see now!), put-on-the-headphones and just dive into this incredible world kind of album.
Beach Fossils – Somersault
This album is a departure, growth even for this band. Long a jangly-indie-pop outfit that to me always felt a bit like a poor-man’s Real Estate, this album features lusher arrangements and a growth in instrumentation. This makes for better songwriting and thoroughly enjoyable, if perhaps safe, record. This album really grew on me through the year, after my initial uncertainty.
Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
Kendrick’s second time on my best-of-year list, and, the second rap album since Madvillainy to end up on endless repeat for me. I don’t know what I can say that hasn’t been better said elsewhere, but after the importance of To Pimp a Butterfly, how amazing to watch this artist turn inwards and produce perhaps an even better album.
Lorde – Melodrama
Pop perfection. Amazing lyrics. Stunning production. My guess is this is one of 3 albums (DAMN. & Sleep Well Beast being the others) that will remain in heavy rotation for years to come.
The National – Sleep Well Beast
I wasn’t sure what this album would be like – after their last, the band sort of dispersed and pull out side projects including producing (and contributing to) the amazing Day of the Dead Grateful Dead covers album. And it turns out that they came back refreshed, willing to experiment with new sounds and time signatures and just knock it out of the park. It’s an uneven album, but where it works, it really, really works.
Slowdive – Slowdive
Well, they’re back! and.. and it is really, really great! It should probably be noted that either you like shoegaze or you don’t, but this is both classic Slowdive and perfectly of the moment.
St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION
New York is probably my favourite track of the year. I don’t know if it is about David Bowie, but it is who I think about whenever I play this song. A long time ago, I wrote about using music to find focus, and last year I got around to making a 5-song playlist that I update from time-to-time with music I want to hear over again that helps with this. That track was added this year. The rest of the album is pretty great too. She’s high on my must-see list, but somehow, never tours where I am. One day!
Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory
The most fun album of my set this year. So much going on. Club-ready tracks with a memoirist’s eye for detail in the lyrics, there’s something for everyone here – shut up and dance, or sit down with headphones and really focus.
The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
I’m not sure anyone in rock spends as much time on production as The War on Drugs. Sumptuous, lush, ephemeral, fuzzy – all words I’ve variously used to describe this album. I love to put this on and just kind of float off on the music.
I finally saw Jack White last night! Fourth time’s the charm (I failed 2 times during the White Stripes era, once since – a mixture of weather problems and my own incompetence).
Note 1: I did not take the photo this post. That photo is by David James Swanson, whom I understand to be the “Tour Photographer”, and, if I heard the announcement right, both he and Jack White are totally cool with us using his photos. great!
I went with Iva & Leah. Not really Leah’s thing, but Iva was excited, and Leah’s a good sport & I think still enjoyed herself.
This is the sort of live show that I live for: Full of improvisation, different treatments on well-trodden songs, mistakes, and, above all, a showcase of musicianship that only occasionally veered into wankery.
The best: I’m guessing that Jack White & the band make up (or alter) the set-list on the fly. Before each song, there’s this hurried conversation between Jack and one or more band members – whomever has to bring in the song with him, while the others catch up. When they start to improvise mid-song, bringing in snippets of other songs, this requires more conversation. Watching the drummer & bassist intently watching & listening to that musical lead was a highlight.
The mediocre: This band is not quite tight enough for this to work. At least once, the band got confused as to where the song was going, and there were some audible mis-cues.
The bad: With Jack White, I’m beginning to think “less is more”..the songs where he lets his band really stretch out worked the best. His solo & lead guitar work definitely veered into wanking showmanship too often, Ball & Biscuit being the song that really stands out in my mind as Jack White wanking off musically, rather than working the song. But letting his bandmates run – even a gorgeous theramin solo! was truly remarkable.
The inexplicable: Why was the sound so bad? I’ve been to several shows at Deer Lake now, and this was by far the worst. Everything was off. Why was the side-of-stage-piano mic better levelled than the lead? What was wrong with the acoustic guitar pickup? Why was there a distinct right-to-left echo going on? Why the muddy? I was wondering if perhaps they were aiming for some “old school” muddy, mono-mix blues sound…but it didn’t work.
The acceptable: That was a short set…just under 2 hours. I partially blame the rules for playing at Deer Lake…hard to have a long show when you’ve got to finish at 10pm. But boy did they pack a lot into that short set.
The everything-is-alright-in-the-world: Singing the guitar riff to Seven Nation Army with 100s of other humans with the band backing you and Jack White singing over it was a beautiful collective-joy moment, and a great send-off for the night.
For someone for whom music has always been central to my life, I was very late to the CD party. I grew up in a house where there was a communal stereo in the living room. First, custom built shelves of old bricks & boards, LPs stored underneath, a row of cassettes, then the amp & cassette deck. The record player held the place of privilege, alone atop the unit. My parents had a sizeable record collection: dozens of folk & singer-songwriter era records from their youth, along with an even larger, but to me, largely invisible classical collection. the LSO’s recording of Brahms was only an obstacle to find the Cat Stevens or the Beatles.
Upstairs, in their rooms, my much older siblings had their own music collections. MY brother had an even larger collection of LPs, stored in milk crates. His collection was largely contemporary, and for the era, pretty outside the mainstream. When he wasn’t home, or I thought I wouldn’t get caught, I would sneak up into his room and just gaze at the albums. Slip Diamond Dogs out of the sleeve, careful not to rip the paper liner, cringing as inevitably the corners would get folded. He had a small lint-brush kept atop the milk-crates that was to be used solely to clean his records. I cleaned so many records that I dare not actually play, hearing in my head the music held within them. My sister, to my memory, did not have records in her room. She had posters and cassettes, and it was all much scarier and I left it more or less alone. Teenage boys can be angry towards their little brothers. Teenage girls fiercely protective of their space are downright scary.
The CD already existed during all of this time – but it was a non-factor in my family’s life until it had been out for nearly a decade, around 1990 or so. Somewhen after my siblings left for university, when I was 12 or 13, our house was broken into. The record player, visible on its pedestal from the porch outside, was a victim of that burglary, along with any number of records from below. When the stereo system was replaced, my parents bought a CD player. My mother was a fan of the Concerto de Aranjuez, and that LP went missing during the robbery. For her birthday I bought my first ever CDs, 2 different renditions of the Rodrigo’s masterpiece, for my mother.
Even though there was a CD player in the house, I continued to buy tapes for myself for entirely practical reasons: When my brother left home I relocated my bedroom upstairs into what used to be his, and in that room I had a double-tape-teck-radio blaster. It was terrible, essentially monaural because the right-side speaker was constantly shorting out and I loved it. Late sunday nights I would stay up in bed, desperately hoping to keep the signal so I could listen, & record, the Grateful Dead Hour radio show. I bought 120-minute tapes so I could record the entire hour on 1 side of the cassette. I would carefully label each episode, and stored it in a pleather-covered cassette-holder briefcase. I would also endlessly make mixtapes. Some were themed (songs starting with the letter I, spelling the recipient’s name), some were educational (all songs produced by Rick Rubin), some were mercenary (I would give and sell and trade tapes to friends). But every single one of those tapes was made on my crappy double-cassette-deck, painstakingly lined up to optimize each side of the cassette. CDs just didn’t lend themselves to easy trading. They were artifacts of consumption, not catalysts for creation like cassettes were.
The first CD I bought for myself was (keeping with my love of the mix-tape & live music), a bootleg 3-cd set of a live Led Zeppelin show from Montreux that sounded terrible, contained mistakes but I thought was the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard. I bought it at a market in Paris while I was on exchange there. I didn’t have a portable CD player with me in France. I didn’t have a CD player of my own at home, but I wanted that set.
It wasn’t until a year later that I got my first CD player, in 1994: for my birthday, my parents gave me a stereo amp. I hooked it up to the 4-ft speakers my brother had left behind nearly 5 years prior in my room. All it could do was play the radio. I was both thrilled, and crushed, that it sounded so good and I couldn’t play my music on it. But that christmas, 2 months later, came part 2: the double-cassette-deck component, and, a cd-player. It all came to university with me, including the way-too-large-for-my-dorm-room speakers, and I loved it. I had acquired a bunch of CDs & quality headphones that I bought second-hand from the owner of a nearby headshop. I still use those headphones today, but nothing else remains from that stereo. Not even the CDs.
For having started collecting CDs fairly late, I made up for it quickly. I bought dozens of magazines that came with sample-music CDs. It was a fantastic way to learn of European techno from Toronto, or music from the New York folk scene. Nearly every spare dollar I had went to buying music. When I moved in with Leah some 8 years later I owned just north of 1000 CDs. I spent hours re-arranging my CDs – if you’ve seen or read High Fidelity, you’ll recognize the obsessive levels of re-arranging I would do. It wasn’t until I realized that Leah didn’t understand how to browse my ordered by alphabetical by producer/songwriter that I gave up on all that & started grouping roughly by genre, then alphabetically. It’s amazing that less than 8 years after that, not only could I no longer arrange my albums by producer, I don’t even know who produced the vast majority of albums I own: it seemed so vitally important to know then, so trivial now.
In 1996 I started working at the student computer help desk at UBC. A manager there, named Jeffrey, had a SCSI CD burner. For work purposes, of course – legitimate duplication of software to hand out to UBC employees (trumpet winsock, anyone?). But late one evening he showed me that he could also duplicate CDs. Create an exact digital duplicate. No loss in fidelity like as what happened to my mixtapes. I was hooked. I couldn’t begin to afford to buy a new CD-R, but when UBC upgraded his machine, they let me buy his old CD-R for a couple hundred bucks. It was single-speed, but It. Was. Awesome. Everyone I knew and loved received a custom-made mixed CD for christmas that holiday. I printed my own album covers & liner notes on my brand-new bubble-jet printer. I asked my girlfriend of the time to hand-write on the discs because my handwriting is terrible.
I experimented with buying CDs, duplicating them and then returning them to stores, but I discovered that I missed the liner notes, so that only happened a few times. I also discovered that because there was no “skill” in making mix CDs that I didn’t enjoy it as much as making mix tapes. The fade-control, time-limits could all be effortlessly predicted through the software. I played with DJ mixes, but was terrible at it, and the software for making such things was very bare-bones back then.
I last bought a CD about 4 years ago. I started a project to digitize my CD collection, and now buy all my music digitally. I don’t miss the format at all. Well, that’s not entirely true. I miss the thrill of examining the packaging, reading the liner notes terribly. There is nothing quite like rushing home with a new purchase, peeling it out of the plastic wrapping, putting it on the stereo and lying there, headphones on to really hear the album, and browsing the liner notes. You can’t do that with digital music. There’s nothing to hold. When my toddler is old enough that I don’t have to worry about him breaking things, I’ll likely buy another turn-table and buy some favourites on vinyl, but not another CD.
I buy comics. A fair amount of comics. I’ve drastically cut back my spending these past couple of years, but the fact remains is that nearly every week of the year, I’m buying 3 or 4 issues. And they make me happy. Every few weeks, for the past 15 years, ever since I moved to Vancouver, I head down to Golden Age Collectibles on Granville st. There, they’ve put aside the comics I collect in a “saver”. When new series come out, I add those to my list. This is an incredible way to shop. Comic shop sales-people have a bad rep (see: The Simpsons, Big Bang Theory), but in my experience, they’re some of the nicest retailers I know: they get customer service. If an author or artist I like has a new book coming out, I’ll often find the first issue of that series in my saver even though I didn’t ask for it, because they think I might like it. When I lived in Toronto, I went to the Silver Snail, using the same saver system.
I used to buy physical music. But I started ordering CDs online as soon as Amazon delivered to Canada, and never looked back. I never had a single local supplier of music. & when digital music became a viable option for me, I mostly stopped ordering CDs at all, and never looked back.
I used to buy physical books. A lot of books. When I first moved in with Leah, I believe the boxes of books were more in both weight & volume than the rest of my possessions combined. & I tried to support local, indie booksellers. But in the end, I started ordering online because it was easier. But I didn’t have a single source for books ever since Bollum‘s at Granville and Georgia closed, and so I never looked back. & now I only buy digital books – mostly Kindle, but the occasional iBook thrown in for good measure.
And while I’m bummed about the loss of bookstores & music stores, I never had a connection to any of them. I started reading some digital comics when I got the first iPad. The app sucked, the interface wasn’t great. But you could tell this was where things were going. But now with the new iPad (3), the retina display means that comics could potentially look as good, or better, on screen than they do in print. And there’s no storage issue. I have boxes & boxes of comics, stored in the basement that I don’t know what to do with. Sometimes I go and re-read old series. I hope someday Liam or Kellan might like to. But I don’t want to keep adding to the pile, particularly as I move to a new place where storage is at something of a premium.
And so, I’m likely going to start subscribing to a lot of the series I like digitally. Sure, I’m locking in to some DRM scheme, but I’m ok with that. The convenience of digital subscriptions current outweighs my dislike. But I’ll be sad about not going to buy comics from my local. I’ll miss their recommendations. And I’ll be sad if/when they close. I don’t know how much the memorabilia/collectable trading card portion of the store brings to their bottom line. But I think the time is coming, in the very near future, where I won’t be buying physical comics anymore.
And I’m sad about that. & I suspect that I’ll miss an ephemeral, but important part of my cultural landscape in a way that I didn’t with books or music.
I don’t know if I stole it from my brother, or inherited it when he outgrew it or if it was a gift. But when I was a kid, I had a tshirt. I ratty, thread-bare tshirt that had the iconic album cover image from The Clash’s London Calling on the front. I’m pretty sure I didn’t know who The Clash were or what they sounded like but I knew I loved that shirt. The abandonment of smashing a guitar spoke to me. I was a reserved, ultra-shy kid. I could never in a million years imagine doing such a thing. But I loved it.
Growing up, music was important in my family. We had a quality stereo, with good speakers. It sat in 1 corner of the living room. The unit was home-built, cobbled together from some bricks and wood boards. The bottom shelf was storage for our LPs. The second shelf held the amplifier and the cassette-player. There was half-shelf on top of that, which was cassette storage on the left. & the crown jewel: the record player. I’ve no idea if it was a particularly good player, but the sound that came from those speakers when listening to an LP was sublime. We had a stiff-cushioned couch that was perfect for building forts (or a tunnel) out of. I would put on an album – the Beatles, or Cat Stevens or something else from my parents’ collection, which tended heavily to singer-songwriterly & classical, and sit in the semi-darkness of my fort, dreaming of the wide world outside my windows, listening to the record player, bursting forth from my fort when it was time to change sides of the LP. It my memories these were always solo pursuits, but I think the truth is more that I was so lost in my world that I was oblivious to the rest of my family around me.
Much as the tshirt that preceded it, I don’t know if I stole the album from my brother’s collection, or if it was a gift – I’m certain I didn’t buy it. But it was the first gate-folded double-LP I can remember. There was some water damage, in the bottom-centre corner, and the cardboard had sponged out & torn slightly. The sleeve, yellowed & made brittle with age or use, of LP 1 had torn, and someone had taped it back together with cello tape. The album cover had that slightly musty smell of damp cardboard that I will eternally associate with good music. I’d pull the disc out of the sleeve carefully, so as to not further damage it – sleeves were always really important to me, despite their almost by-design replaceable nature. I’d lift the plastic lid up off the record player, situate the disc on the centre spindle, gently place the needle-arm at the start. Then always, always, turned it UP. The initial crackle and pop, and Oh, that opening riff. Snarling, choppy guitars howling scratchily out of the speakers. Then the surprisingly musical singing from Joe Strummer, London Calling. Heaven.
I don’t know how many times I’ve listened to London Calling. I’m by no means a good guitarist but I can play every song straight through. I know every lyric. Our LP had a scratch in the middle of Death or Glory – the first “just another story” was never sung, just bounced over. I’ve since bought this album on Cassette, CD & ripped it to FLAC, but in my mind’s heart, these digital versions are what’s wrong, not the scratchy version on my album.
I don’t own a record player right now. The convenience of the digital library, accessible anywhere, instantly being able to play any tune is just too hard to compete against. But digital music doesn’t have the soul of an LP. They say scent-memory is particularly strong. And it’s true. For many of my favourite music from when I was a kid, I have an olfactory response of the musty smell of the cardboard LP covers they lived in, the hot-dust smell of a record that had been played on repeat for too long. Liam won’t have that. When he wants a song, he’ll find it on our digital library, on on YouTube. There’s an inconvenience in flipping through stacks of LPs, but there’s also a joy of browsing too – how often did I put on something entirely different because my fingers happened to pause on that LP while searching for another one all together?
It’s happened. I’m officially old. I’m looking about the contemporary musical landscape, and most bands are coming up short against the bands of my youth. I miss Grunge. Well, not really Grunge per se, but the ethos & certain bands. I miss the manic creativity and conflicted stardom of Nirvana. I miss Kurt Cobain’s anguished howls and menacing singing. I miss Pearl Jams us vs. them attitude. I’m happy they’ve found their bliss and are loving life and rocking out, but I’m bummed that Eddie Vedder doesn’t seem to mind being held in our debt anymore. The conflicted anger at rapt fans singing along while they worked out their twin demons of wanting the joyous communal experience, while rejecting the stardom that came with it made those early Pearl Jam shows fraught with Tension. I wish someone today could combine a snarl with beautiful melodies like Billy Corgan & the Smashing Pumpkins did. They mined that vein until there was nothing left. On the flipside of Smashing Pumpkins was Soundgarden, with Chris Cornell’s joyous wails lending weight to his otherwise tortured growl powering through most of the songs. I loved listening to the fem-rock (riotgrrl?) of Sleater Kinner, L7, Breeders. Who today has picked up the agro-rap-rock rants of Rage Against the Machine? Hell, even wannabes like Stone Temple Pilots had serious vocal chops.
The late 90s were rife with bands making millions performing radio-friendly imitations of their still-on-the-edge predecessors. Indie rock was a peppier response to that schlock. And while contemporary indie rock is vibrant, multi-hued collage, I haven’t heard bands in the past few years that so effortlessly pull out that directionless, generational anger as their early 90s predecessors. I love the ironic detachment of the Strokes, the dance rock revolution of Franz Ferdinand, the melodrama of Gnarls Barkley. I couldn’t be happier about the “new folk”, whether it’s the sweet, bluegrass tinge of Mumford & Sons or the freak-folk Devendra Banhart – but it’s not angst-rock.
I think a large part of what’s missing to me is that so many of these new bands just seem so fucking cool – like they’ve all got it figured out. They have a pose, a look. They know how to talk to the press, how to manage their media, how to deal. It may be an elaborate act, and they might not. They still say idiotic things, overdose, are stupid, but they tend to present well. I remember watching interviews on the New Music and these guys (and girls) just seemed so unaware of how to present themselves, and still tried to come up with real, hard-thought answers rather than already having a quip ready. It’s possible that their skin was crawling purely because of withdrawal, but I like to think it was more than the drugs. It was the mindset. It was the punk DIY ethos mixed with a genuine desire to affect change for the most part.
So while I continue to find new music I really dig, today, today I miss early 90s rock.
It’s a silly little thing, but one of favourite serendipitous experiences is when, while listening to iTunes DJ, iTunes plays a track that is a song-intro from a live show, or a radio interview. However, rather than immediately play the next song from that album (i.e., the song being introduced), it plays a wholly other song. Bonus points for the next song if it is somewhat similar, but not by the same artist. I like to imagine this being a “real”, albeit totally abstract re-interpretation of the song being played. Here’s a pair of examples from today:
I have a “live in studio” album from Iron & Wine at KCRW. At one point, Sam Beam introduces “Upward Over the Mountain”, talking a little about it. However, instead of that song,, iTunes instead played “King Harvest” by The Band. Which has some thematic similarities, but is otherwise diferent.
Or, from the “Live At The Gorge” album, by Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder introduces “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town”, and instead of that, iTunes actually played “What’s the Frequency Kenneth?” from my bootleg of R.E.M at Milton Keynes – this mix gets even more bonus points because both tracks are live, with crowd noises and the cheering was more or less seamless.
It’s silly, I know, but this sort of coincidence (moments of zen, to steal from the Daily Show?) do wonders for me. Reaffirm my faith, if you will.
I was pretty stoked about last night’s concert. Each of Wolf Parade’s albums have made into pretty high rotation with me, and when I last saw them live, opening for…I want to say The Walkmen, but I’m not sure that’s right, their energy was great. That carried through to last night’s show as well, although it wasn’t without fault.
I had never heard of The Mools before. They’re an indie-rock trio from Tokyo who play complicated, jazz-infused rock. I loved it. Last night I tweeted that they were lead by a “stealth puppet-master drummer”. Which I think needs clarification. Their drummer was very understated, a surprisingly still drummer. At first, I wasn’t that impressed. But then they started messing with time signatures, and the lead singer/guitarist went off on these crazy, amazing solos and I noticed, like in all truly great rock bands, it all started and ended with the drummer. So thus the puppet-master, reeling out the other parts of the band, then, as the solos come to a close, bring them back in. Definitely see them live if you can, and check out their music.
After a short intermission which really only served to heat up the theatre even more as sweaty bodies milled about in uncomfortably close quarters, Wolf Parade came out. And they rocked hard. They really, really gave it a lot, which, as an audience member is always really rewarding when you can tell a band is really bringing it. Towards the end of the night they talked about this – that playing Vancouver is sort of like playing a hometown show and historically they had choked but were really happy with this show.
The pacing was pretty good, mostly alternating older & newer tracks. If I have a quibble, and I do, but it’s a minor one, is that they don’t yet seem to know how to run a concert. They’re still a fairly young band, and haven’t been headlining for that long, and it shows. There were some overly long silences, some awkward-odd as opposed to awkward-hip interactions with the crowd.