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My Epic Shuffle Playlist

Posted by MUSIC_Jake On April - 17 - 2009

By Jake Shenker

Last week I was talking to a friend of mine about his hatred of iPods. It’s not that he has a personal grudge against Steve Jobs — no, my friend has a problem with MP3 players in general. “Yes, they’re convenient,” he says, “but no one listens to albums anymore. People just skip through their thousands of songs until they find the one track in ten they want to hear.”

In a sense, my friend is right. The concept of an album is fairly young — some might argue it started with The Beatles’ Rubber Soul — and it’s frightening to think that the genre is going the way of the dodo, replaced by iTunes Top Tens and Singles of the Week. But I love my iPod — all 80 gigabytes of it — and it’s not just because I can store the last 100 years of recorded music on a slab of metal smaller than my wallet. My iPod lets me discover forgotten songs, those album closers and filler tracks that never quite made it past my ears and into my memory.

I routinely pop my iPod on shuffle and pray for the best, and I’m routinely disappointed. When I’m dancing while I shop for groceries, it gives me J.S. Bach; when I’ve got dinner guests, it gives me System of a Down. But one day last month, I hit the shuffle button and my iPod got it right. Perfect song after perfect song, I was treated to the kind of playlist they must have in heaven. I never skipped a single track.talking-heads

Here is my epic shuffle playlist.

1) Barenaked Ladies — “Brian Wilson” from Gordon (1992)
What self-respecting Canadian doesn’t love the Barenaked Ladies? What makes this song even more awesome is that apparently Brian Wilson himself has played it to open shows.

2) Talking Heads — “Don’t Worry About the Government” from 77 (1977)
The original song about buildings, from Talking Heads’ debut album 77. “Government” is the quintessential quirky, upbeat David Byrne composition, and never ceases to make me laugh (and dance).

3) Hey Rosetta! — “Red Heart” from Into Your Lungs… (2008)
These guys have been impressing critics since before their newest record won them the album of the year award at XM Radio’s Verge Music Awards (no lame statuettes here: they won a cash prize). “Red Heart” is a recent single and epitomizes the slick production, tight songwriting, and flawless instrumentation that make Hey Rosetta! great.

4) Jeff Buckley — “The Way Young Lovers Do” from Live at Sin-é: Legacy Edition (2003)
Jeff Buckley is of course best known for his cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” and his debut album Grace, but true fans cherish the triple-disc Live at Sin-é: Legacy Edition. This masterpiece features a pre-Grace Buckley alone with this guitar, singing mostly haunting covers of classic rock, soul, and folk. “The Way Young Lovers Do” is from Van Morrison’s seminal album, Astral Weeks.holloways

5) Kelly Joe Phelps — “Crow’s Nest” from Tunesmith Retrofit (2006)
Originally a world-class slide-guitar player, Kelly Joe Phelps has slowly morphed into a world-class songwriter. Phelps’ soft, blues-infused voice shines on this track – the opener from his 7th album, Tunesmith Retrofit – and the Irish-inspired violin solo after the bridge is exceptional.

6) The Holloways — “Fit For a Fortnight” from So This is Great Britain? (2006)
I’ve long described The Holloways as the bastard child of The Clash, The Jam, and The Specials — a kind of hybrid neo-brit-punk-ska-rock superband. This track features the group’s signature double lead vocal by singers Alfie Jackson and Rob Skipper, and opens with a fantastically catchy harmonica lick. It simply doesn’t get better than this.

7) Elvis Costello — “No Action” from This Year’s Model (1978)
The opening track of Elvis’ second album, This Year’s Model, is a frenetic track with painfully catchy vocal harmonies in the chorus. At just two minutes long, “No Action” breezes from verse to chorus to bridge, packing more melodies than I can count on one hand.

jonny8) Marcia Aitken — “I’m Still in Love” from Jonny Greenwood is the Controller (2007)
Jonny Greenwood is no reggae superstar — he’s just a guy with a lot of old reggae records. Of course Greenwood’s day job as the lead guitarist of Radiohead gave him the credibility — and funds — necessary to release this compilation of old reggae tunes. “I’m Still in Love” has all the features you’d expect of classic reggae, but also borrows some classic soul influence. For a modern equivalent, think James Hunter with more dub.

9) Michael Franti & Spearhead — “Food For the Masses” from Live at the Baobab (2000)
Although Michael Franti & Spearhead’s more recent music has lost the edge of their classic funk-infused hip-hop, their 2000 live album, Live at the Baobab, is as honest and powerful as hip-hop can possibly be. Franti’s charisma stands out in the tiny Baobab, and Spearhead’s stripped down, partly acoustic sound lends itself perfectly to the venue’s intimate size. The front half of this album is mostly solo-Franti spoken word, and “Food For the Masses” is nothing less than eloquent poetry delivered with passion.

cat-stevens 10) Cat Stevens — “On the Road to Find Out” from Tea For the Tillerman (1970)
To me, Cat Stevens has two styles: big, cheesy 70s arrangements and timeless acoustic folk. I love it all, but “On the Road to Find Out” is definitely of the folksier variety. This is the kind of tune I’d imagine singing to a child as a lullaby, and it’s the perfect follow-up to Michael Franti’s aggressive rapping on the previous track.

11) Frank Zappa — “Peaches en Regalia” from Hot Rats (1969)
“Peaches” is one of Frank Zappa’s most succinct instrumentals, and, potentially, his most beautiful. If you never got into Zappa because “he’s too weird,” give this track a listen. It might just change your mind.

12) Michael Jackson — “Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough” from Off the Wall (1979)
I don’t want to live in a world where shuffle playlists don’t contain at least one classic Michael Jackson track.

13) Tumi & the Volume — “Signs” from Tumi & the Volume (2005)
This organic hip-hop group hailstumi from South Africa and is comprised of emcee Tumi Molekane and members of dub outfit 340ml. While I’d love to write a nice long review of this track, I really need only say one thing: if you like hip-hop, check these guys out — you’ll be blown away.

14) Stillwater — “You Had to Be There” from the EP included in the Almost Famous: Untitled Bootleg Cut DVD set (2000)
Yes that’s right, Stillwater is the fictitious band from the movie Almost Famous. Make fun of me all you want, but this fake band had some fucking catchy songs. Of course, the songs were actually written by Peter Frampton, director Cameron Crowe, and former Heart vocalist/guitarist Nancy Wilson, but… well, a great song is great, fake or not.

15) Tim Armstrong — “Oh No” from A Poet’s Life (2007)
Tim Armstrong is the frontman of punk band Rancid, but don’t let that scare you — his debut solo album, A Poet’s Life, is all ska and dub. Remember the Rancid single “Time Bomb?” Yeah, this is like a whole album of that.

let-it-be 16) Nirvana — “About a Girl” from MTV Unplugged in New York (1994)
Forget Nevermind — I think MTV Unplugged is the best thing Nirvana ever did, and I’ve read enough interviews to believe that Kurt Cobain agreed with me. Take some simple grunge songs, slap on a string quartet, bring along the Meat Puppets, and you’ve got one hell of a post-grunge alt-rock acoustic extravaganza. It’s all kicked off by “About a Girl,” a once-forgotten track from Nirvana’s indie debut, Bleach.

17) The Beatles — “Two of Us”
from Let it Be… Naked (1970/2003)
If you subscribe to Beatles lore, you believe that Phil Spector ruined Let it Be. That notion is the basis for the recently released Let it Be… Naked, which has been re-mixed, re-mastered, re-sequenced, re-designed, and re-released free of Spector’s “damaging” influence. Whether you dig the original Let it Be or want Phil Spector burned at the stake is irrelevant — sonically, this re-release is far superior to the original 1970 album. It might be the best indication of what we’re in store for when the Beatles’ remastered catalogue is released this September.

Warm And Spreading: The ‘08 Winter Mix

Posted by music On December - 23 - 2008

Warm And Spreading, Like Wetting The Bed
Allana’s Winter Mix ‘08

As a semi-prelude to the best-of-2008 listmaking that’s to come, I introduce my winter mix of 2008 (not necessarily representative of the best-of, mind you). Usually it’s a lot less content from the year at hand, and more a random smattering of whatever suits my fancy, but this year I had a bit of a change of heart. Rather than try to encompass the frigid, frostbitten ways of our frozen North, somehow this mix ended up well on the warm, fuzzy, energetic electronic side. I might just be in denial (as such, this mix has been in progress for three weeks while I weighed my options). But as I write this, I can still see green grass, so let’s just check back in in a month, okay?

Here, have some music.

1. Studio – 2 Hearts (Version by Studio) (from Yearbook 2, 2008)
2. TV on the Radio – Crying (from Dear Science, 2008)
3. Cibelle – City People (from The Shine of Dried Electric Leaves, 2006)
4. No Kids – For Halloween (from Come Into My House, 2008)
5. Akufen – Tournee 1 (from Hawaiian Wodka Party, 2003)
6. Chequerboard – Penny Black (from Penny Black, 2008)
7. Skyphone – All Is Wood (from Avellaneda, 2008)
8. (Smog) – Let’s Move to the Country (from Knock Knock, 1999)
9. Jay-Jay Johanson – I Fantasize of You (from Poison, 2000)
10. Mark Kozelek – Lazy (from The Finally LP, 2008)
11. The Instruments – Ode To The Sea (from Dark Småland, 2008)
12. Bowery Electric – Without Stopping (from Beat, 1996)
13. Dosh – Hit and Pearls (from Wolves and Wishes, 2008)
14. Yann Tiersen – Au Dessous Du Volcan (from Tabarly, 2008)
15. Yann Tiersen – Atlantique Nord (from Tabarly, 2008)

Allana Mayer
Music Editor

(The cover image was gleefully stolen from the photography collection of our own EIC, Rachel Kahn.)

The Obligatory Spring Mix

Posted by music On April - 25 - 2008

spring leafOkay, here’s a freebie for y’all. Though MONDOmusic probably won’t be one of the new spiffy Friday-update sections, I thought I’d toss something its way this week. And lo, it’s time again for the spring mix! You know, I only do winter mixes and spring mixes, never summer or fall… I should find this intriguing, but I’m too lazy. Here, have some music.

1. Half-Handed Cloud – Out of Crudeness; Healing (from Thy Is a Word & Feet Need Lamps, 2005)
2. Cloud Cult – Hurricanes and Fire Survival Guide (from Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes), 2008)
3. Amon Duul II – Archangels Thunderbird (from Yeti, 1970)
4. Aislers Set – Hit The Snow (from The Last Match, 2000)
5. Rentals – Move On (from Return of the Rentals, 1995)
6. Can – Turtles Have Short Legs (from the Turtles Have Short Legs/Halleluwah single, 1971)
7. Dirty Projectors – Obscure Wisdom (from Slaves’ Graves and Ballads, 2004)
8. Helio Sequence – Lately (from Keep Your Eyes Ahead, 2008)
9. Chopin – Minute Waltz (I’m partial to Dinu Lipatti’s versions on Chopin: Waltzes Nos. 1-14, from 1999)
10. Field Music – In Context (from Tones of Town, 2007)
11. Glorytellers – Awake at the Wheel (from Glorytellers, 2008)
12. Marshmallow Coast – Shimmering in a Bulb of Glass (from Marshmallow Coasting, 2000)
13. Deep Dark United – Down With Peacock Rock (from the Fools! EP, 2002)
14. Global Goon – Glory B (from Family Glue, 2004)
15. Sackville – Gold Dust (from Principles of Science EP, 1999)
16. Hauschka – Gingko Tree (from The Prepared Piano, 2005)
17. Jackie-O Motherfucker – Something On Your Mind (from Liberation, 2001)
18. Left Banke – I’ve Got Something On My Mind (from Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina, 1967) 

Allana Mayer
Music Editor

(Cute spring-leaf-y cover image stolen from the Hilton Pond Centre at www.hiltonpond.org.)

Ten Songs for Winter

Posted by admin On December - 11 - 2007

The Moodswinging Weather Mix

By Natalie Sylvie Plourde

Whether you’re putting out your Christmas lights, lighting your menorah, or cringing at holiday commercialism, we can all agree that we have our rituals around this time of year. Yes, it’s freezing and miserable outside, but for those of us fortunate enough to have a bed and iTunes, it doesn’t have to be so bad. And so, I give you my 10-song playlist for the wintertime – served best while cuddling in bed with a significant other, a significant book, or a significant thought. Read the rest of this entry »

Ten Songs for Winter

Posted by music On December - 11 - 2007

The Best Sides of Winter Mix

By Allana Mayer

You should all know by now that I’m waaaaaaay too serious about this whole winter mix thing. So, with no more overemphasis, I’ll clue you in on ten of the best tracks I’ve so kindly foisted on my unwilling friends and colleagues over the years.

Humcrush – “Anamorphic Images”
With twinkly bells and a furtive sort of melody, this is the perfect I’m-having-a-snowball-fight -and-I-just-built-a-REALLY-BIG-FORT-to-hide-behind -and-no-one’s-ever-gonna-take-me-down song.

Animal Collective – “Winter’s Love”
There’s a reason this was the unofficial theme of Shortbus and used a million times over in other places. This track is fucking gorgeous and by far the best thing Animal Collective has ever done. It’s got a tribal vibe, a spiritual sort of hum, and says cuddle parties, campfire communes, and nude romps galore. Being warm, essentially. The echoes of fingers sliding up frets; the muted drumming like pencils hitting whatever’s lying around…. It’s a drug trip. A very good one.

Tom Waits – “Bronx Lullaby”
Bootleg-only as far as I know, this haunting track is recorded impromptu in a documentary called Poetry in Motion. It’s a black little ballad about two minutes long, featuring sparse guitar chords and including lyrics “Wake God up in heaven, have him look down below / There’s a little lost angel blooming in the snow.” Your guess is as good as mine as to what’s going on here, but I’m completely certain it’s not good. Beautiful, though.

Hidden Cameras – “Golden Streams”
To lighten the mood a bit, you’ve got some Canadian heroes singing about golden showers in wintertime. That’s pretty much all I have to say about this. Gotta find warmth wherever you can, I guess.

Papa M – “Over Jordan”
Death!
I was just gonna leave it at that, but my word count’s low. A friend actually used this on his winter mix, and the entire disc was so enjoyable I had a hard time picking just one track. It’s exemplary of the dark acoustic energy, the rough echoes and swells that his mix collected. This one in particular seems archaic and spiritual, Cormac McCarthy-an, a eulogy for oneself before one’s death has even occurred.

Great Lake Swimmers feat. Polmo Polpo – “Moving Pictures, Silent Films”
A melancholic refrain about hibernation, a sad withdrawal, a resigned cocooning… Somehow Tony Dekker manages to make this song as much about heartbreak as the weather. It’s one of the most gut-wrenching tunes I’ve ever spent all night listening to on repeat.

A.C. Newman – “Better Than Most”
This song has absolutely nothing to do with winter. It made it onto my mix one year because it’s pessimistic and overly artistic and vague, and somehow it mimicked my own melodramatic feelings at the time (I promise not to elaborate). I still can’t get enough of it. It’s got a dark sort of energy that keeps you trudging through the snow, albeit in frustration and anger.

Skyphone – “Sinne Gas”
What’s funny about this track is that it opens with crickets (or some sort of critter) scuttling, things being knocked about, noises of the forest – definitely not wintry. But the echoey sort of vibraphone somehow seems Christmas-y to me, and when those crackling noises develop into a rolling little rhythm, the entire piece feels organic and natural. Somehow this seems more appropriate for a city covered in soft snow than one with exposed concrete and garbage strewn about the place.

Billie Holiday – “Moonlight in Vermont”
This made it onto a winter mix but always felt out of place with more contemporary selections. Regardless, Billie’s voice is warm and aged and rich and mellow, and the song is one of the most peaceful narratives I have ever heard.

Emiliana Torrini – “Snow”
This woman’s voice is crystalline, elfin, and absolutely innocent. It really didn’t matter what song I chose from her, but this one has, you know, that whole “Snow” thing going for it. It’s a short little burst of emotion, much like the Tom Waits entry on this list. Maybe winter – and all the hibernation that happens, because you’re not really content to get up and go outside – lends itself to contemplation, reliving, second-guessing, and regretting.

Twelve Memories: Songs of Summer

Posted by music On July - 31 - 2007

Please don’t make fun of my list.

By Alicia Glavac

A Side – All I needed to know about life I learned from Q107.

“Sweet Emotion” – Aerosmith from Toys in the Attic (1975)
The first CD I ever owned was Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits. When I was 15 my sisters and I all got CD players for Christmas and ONE precious CD each. We would take turns playing a song from each disc on our own player. My favourite song on that CD was “Dream On,” but “Sweet Emotion” equals summer because all I can think about when I hear it is Pickford’s Orbit Orange 1970 soft-top Pontiac GTO and I’m reminded of that magical summer we partied at the moon tower.

“Layla” – Derek and the Dominoes from Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (1970)
Every time this song comes on the radio my mom tells me about the summer when she and her best friend bought this record and listened to “Layla” all day for three months. Now I associate it with summer and my mom in jean cut-offs.

“American Woman” – The Guess Who from American Woman (1970)
Once this guy I know went to a music industry party and got a glass of wine spilled on him by Burton Cummings. He was pretty mad, but then he was like, “What can you do – it’s Burton Cummings.”

“She’s a Rainbow” – The Rolling Stones from Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967)
“Why are there so many songs about rainbows and what’s on the other side? Someday we’ll find it – the rainbow connection – the lovers, the dreamers, and me.”

“Summertime” – Big Brother & The Holding Company from Cheap Thrills (1968)
In grade six I heard Janis Joplin for the first time in music appreciation class. I decided at that moment to devote my life to her teachings.

“Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show” – Neil Diamond from Hot August Night (1972)
Every night is a hot August night with Uncle Neil and his sweaty, raspy, sparkly-shirted ways.

B Side - Classic Rock of the future.

“Hard Road” – Sam Roberts Band from We Were Born in a Flame (2003)
It’s not officially summer until I’ve seen Sam Roberts sweat his way through a tight, white t-shirt.

“Love Her” – The Redwalls from De Nova (2005)
The Redwalls are cooler than you. They know they’re cool, and they know you’re intimidated by their coolness. The best you can do is quietly rock out in the corner hoping that they don’t see you and make fun of how lame you are.

“Another Travelin’ Song” – Bright Eyes from I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning (2005)
No summer road-trip mix is complete without this baby…for obvious reasons.

“Outdoor Type” – The Lemonheads from Car Button Cloth (1996)
Remember that girl from YM who got to go to her prom with Evan Dando? I hated that bitch. This is the theme song for people like me who love The Lemonheads and NOT camping.

“Mama’s Got a Girlfriend Now” – Ben Harper and The Innocent Criminals from Live from Mars (2001)
Every time I see Ben Harper live I wait the whole time for him to sing this. He never does…and apparently only did this one time…on Mars.

“I’ll Bring the Sun” – Jason Collett from Idols of Exile (2005)
Jason Collett is like my porn. The video for this little gem is the reason I’m ruined for all other men. After all, he brings the sun.

Twelve Songs of Summer

Posted by music On July - 23 - 2007

Quite literally. Most of these songs have the word “summer” involved somewhere.

By Miles Baker

1) Pixies – “Cecilia Ann” from Bossanova (1990)
There is no talking during “Cecilia Ann.” Only rocking.

2) matt pond PA – “Summer is Coming” from The Nature of Maps (2002)
If the appropriateness of this song wasn’t apparent in its title, it would become during the epic cello line – it’s majestic.

3) Aimee Mann – “Ghost World” from Bachelor No. 2 (2000)
There’s always a time in summer when I feel different and alienated from all of my friends. This happens because the summer brings out something different in everyone; it’s a great chance to re-invent yourself like Lisa did in that episode of The Simpsons when they went to Flander’s cottage. This song is about that feeling: “Everyone I know is acting weird or way too cool/ They hang out by the pool/ While I just read a lot and ride my bike around the school.”

4) Talking Heads – “Uh-Oh, Love Comes To Town” from 77 (1977)
The first song from their first record heralded a new age of awesome-good times.

5) Bob Marley & the Wailers – “Natural Mystic” from Exodus (1977)
This entire record should be put on the list because it’s perfect from top to bottom. I know a lot of douchebags like Marley, but don’t let that ruin him for you – because you know the douches are going to change it to Dave Matthew any second now.

6) Pinback – “Fortress” from Summer in Abaddon (2004)
Few bands can sound the same all the time but call it a sound. Pinback can and it works just fine.

7) Pavement – “Summer Babe (Winter Version)” from Slanted & Enchanted (1992)
This song makes me feel like I’ve come home – it’s messy, drags it’s feet, and possibly references Vanilla Ice.

8 ) The Rentals – “My Summer Girl” from Return of The Rentals (1995)
Where the fuck is this band? What the hell is Matt Sharp doing right now? If it isn’t making six new Rentals records I’m going to kick his ass. Then ask him to sign my copy of Pinkerton.

9) Beck – “Mixed Bizness” from Midnite Vultures (1973)
Puppet-dancing Beck is fun and everything, but I miss bed-descending Beck of yesteryear.

10) Joni Mitchell – “You Turn Me On I’m a Radio” live recording from Miles of Aisles (1974)
When listening to this record you can almost feel what seeing it live would have been like: a slight chill of summer air, unruly hair every where, and so much marijuana that the band would get high from breathing the audience. However, they were probably already high.

11) Paul Simon – “Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard” from Paul Simon (1973)
I don’t care if you like or don’t like Paul Simon, this song is fun and worth singing along to in the car.

12) Regina Spektor – “Summer in the City” from Begin to Hope (2006)
The first line of this song is just so very true and so very funny: “Summer in the city means cleavage, cleavage, cleavage.”

Songs omitted include: Boys of Summer, Summer Girls, Summer of ‘69, Summer Lovin’, Kokomo.

By Sal Hassanpour

There’s something about listening to acoustic-guitar heavy blue-eyed soul and unabashedly perfect pop would-be-hits that says “summer” to me, more than anything else at this point in my music listening history. (Objectively, I’m already way past “music snob”.) Here’s a tribute, then, to these wonderful bands, most of whom survived solely on an intense cult following before recent re-release campaigns saved most from near-obscurity.

So apply some mousse, put that denim jacket on, go outside, and put this in your Walkman as you glide through the city. On a hoverboard.

1) Haircut 100 – “Love Plus One” (from Pelican West, 1982; 1995)
Think “Come On Eileen” but cuter. The tightest rhythm guitar riff in the world sets-up what follows: Loads of bongos, saxophones, vibraphones, super-silly lyrics and wobbly, melodic bass. In sum, Nick Heyward’s Haircut 100 were the most adorable bunch of geeks you could find in 1982: Check out the sweaters! (Not to mention splashing water onto women and a “boiling pot” shot that’s surely the inspiration for a certain Daft Punk video). In any case, this is the best slice of sugary indie-pop to start your day, one that bands like The Coral, Mystery Jets and Guillemots have clearly been studying.

2) The Go-Betweens – “Streets Of Your Town” (from 16 Lovers Lane, 1988; 2004)
Screw Depeche Mode, Echo And The Bunnymen, The Cure and New Order. Screw The Smiths. As much as I have loved and love those bands still, Australia’s The Go-Betweens were the best band of the 1980s. The problem is, you either fall obsessively in love with them or they seem to you like no more than an rootsy version of Crowded House. Nevertheless, this is the quintessential guitar-pop anthem for bumming around the city in the summer, with a cool faux-flamenco guitar, heart-warming woodblocks and violinist Amanda Brown’s sunny refrain (“Shine”). The lyrics by the sorely-missed Grant McLennan (who passed away last year) speaks of “shining knives” and “battered wives,” but it’s the pop melody that’ll put a pep in your step.

3) Prefab Sprout – “Bonny” (from Steve McQueen, 1985; 2007)
With superstar producer Thomas Dolby at the helm, a smart acoustic riff blows in like a cool breeze and the keyboards echoes like sips of ice-cold water. The lyrics are drenched in the “Missed chances and the same regrets” that spring up when the one we love has left for good, but Paddy McAloon’s soulful delivery seems to be exorcising the sadness right out of him, and we’re left feeling that everything will be OK.

4) XTC – “Grass” (from Skylarking, 1986; 2001)
Part of the appeal of 80’s guitar-pop was how deliberately and knowingly naïve much of the lyrical sentiments were. Part of it had to with a resurrection of that delicate British psychedelic “paisley pop” vibe, and one of the more simple moments of 80s neo-psychedelic pop comes from XTC’s Todd Rundgren-produced career highlight. The lyrics have to do with “the things we used to do on grass” and how “the way you slap my face just fills me with desire”. Wikipedia tells me that Andy Partridge described Skylarking as “a summer’s day cooked into one cake”. Whether the statement was actually said, it holds true for “Grass”.

5) The Durutti Column – “Sketch For Summer” (from The Return Of The Durutti Column, 1979; 1996)
This is simply the best instrumental guitar song ever recorded. I could play it literally forever and it would never grow old for me. And all it is, is a beat-box emulating a heart beat, some fake bird-song and overdubbed guitar with loads of echo FX. “Sketch For Summer” draws out the mysterious, deadly, secret and tragic underside of summer that lurks just beneath the surface of warm, pleasant days.

6) Aztec Camera – “Working In A Goldmine” (from Love, 1987/ Best of …, 1999)
When people use the term blue-eyed soul, it’s this kind of super-slick, slap-(bass) happy pop perfection they’re talking about. In this case, imagine a young Billy Bragg covering Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody”. Only the biggest humbug wouldn’t smile when Roddy Frame’s free-associating lyrics dish out lines like “Drowning in the sunshine” and “‘I believe in your heart of gold”. This is the aural equivalent of a sugar high after eating too many popsicles.

7) PM Dawn – “Set Adrift On Memory Bliss Of You” (from Of The Heart, Of The Soul And Of The Cross: The Utopian Experience, 1991)
OK, I know. I can read the album’s date and this song does exude the spiritual, daisy-age hip-hop of the early Nineties in spirit, but sonically, it’s a mash-up of the guitar line from Spandau Ballet’s 1983 hit “True” and the distinctive beat from Eric B. and Rakim’s “Paid In Full” from 1987 – and therefore counts as a two-in-one! As if the song itself wasn’t enough, check out the jaw-dropping video, full of Day-Glo spiritual iconography crayoned onto the faces of children and mouth-watering underwater shots guaranteed to make you rush to the nearest pool. Like PM Dawn itself, “Memory Bliss” the song and video is so completely genuine and un-ironic it’ll almost make you cry.

8 ) The Stranglers – “Always The Sun” (from Dreamtime, 1986; 2001)
If you’ve heard of The Stranglers, it was probably “No More Heroes” on some “history of punk” compilation. Well, by the mid-80s, the band had dtiched those pretension (they were never, ever punk) and became the smart, sophisticated (on the surface at least) continental-pop band they were meant to be. For anyone wishing they were anywhere on the French Riviera driving a Lamborghini after a good tennis match, this what you put into the casette player.

9) The Lilac Time – “American Eyes” (from Paradise Circus, 1989; 2006)
It was due to the efforts of bigger bands like XTC, who butted heads with record companies to be able to release acoustic, pastoral-themed albums right in the middle of the great synthesizer era that the great guitar-pop bands crawled out of the woodwork. One-hit wonder Stephen Duffy (of “Kiss Me” fame) went down the acoustic path and produced some of the best-written pop songs of the sub-genre. Never mind that he’s writing for Robbie Williams now, this whimsical two-and-a-half-minute tune will make sure you have your “apple-pie eyes” showing, too.

10) Antena – “Camino Del Sol” (from Camino Del Sol, 1982 and a million re-releases ever since)
Imagine asking Kraftwerk to cover an Antonio Carlos Jobim album. In 1982, a trio of French synth and bossa-nova enthusiasts from the hot, sleepy and Southern town of Montpellier relocated to Belgium to do just that, and this slowly pulsating gem, whose French lyrics are all about quiet vacations and tropical climates, will transport you through time and space (on a Concord) as you end up gently swaying the night away on a Club Med beach in Cartagena circa Romancing The Stone.

11) The Blue Nile – “Tinseltown In The Rain” (from A Walk Across The Rooftops, 1984)
Everyone has what they consider underrated bands. Well, The Blue Nile have the lion’s share of perfect-rating reviews for their albums (I guess it helps that in two decades they’ve only released four). In terms of critical acclaim alone, then, they ought to rule the world by now, so “underrated” doesn’t apply at all. And yet, popularity for them has been more elusive than the Holy Grail. Never mind: When the next summer storm hits and you’re at home, listen to angel-voiced Paul Buchanan as you pour yourself a dram of good single malt and stare out the window, pretending you’re Michael Douglas.

12) The Style Council – “Long Hot Summer” (from Introducing: The Style Council, 1983)
This slice of breezy, blue-eyed proto P-funk/pop with nary a guitar, coming from the man who used to front soul-punkers The Jam is further proof that sometimes crossing over to the pop side is not a complete sin and nicely sums up this list, although I’d much rather have had this slightly more dubbed-out version instead. Thank you early VHS player buyers, and Youtube!

Ultimate Summer Tracks

Posted by music On July - 23 - 2007

Want to channel the spirit of summers past (or nonexistent)? This list is for you.

By Jenny Bundock

This was supposed to be a list of twelve songs, but I had 15 on my list. I’ll discuss the top twelve songs, and then I’ll list honourable mentions of three more, because they should be on the list (or mix tape, or CD if you are into new technology, or “iPod play list” if you are eons ahead of me). Moving on, here are the 15 best summer songs in my meagre opinion, which may not be so meagre, if you like the genre of, well, everything.

I started this process during one of this summer’s theatrically hot days (you know the one where parts of the 401 started to buckle – that one) and I thought to myself, What songs would I like to hear on this piss-poor day?

12) The Mountain Goats – “This Year”
Why? Because I am going to make it through this year, if it kills me… and there will be feasting, AND rejoicing in Jerusalem next year. Trust me.

But seriously, what a kickass song to get up to. I noticed that if it comes on when my CD player wakes me up in the morning I can’t help but clap my way all the way into the bathroom. If you have to wake up because it’s too damn hot to sleep anymore, you may as well wake up happy.

11) The Sourkeys – “Demon or Deity”
I’m going to carry that clapping theme straight on through to the Sourkeys, because they are amazing and, like the Mountain Goats, you can’t be having a bad day listening to the Sourkeys. I picked this song because it gets me all ramped up for being hot all day.

10) The Weakerthans – “Aside”
If you’ve ever heard this song you shouldn’t have to ask why it is on the list. I am so confident in this assumption that I’m not even going to write a witty paragraph describing it.

9) Lily Allen – “LDN”
Anyone who thinks that they don’t like Lily Allen has never heard this song when it is sunny out. Personally, I adore her, and I’ll never stop. (Even though she has never heard of Rage Against The Machine – seriously, I heard her say it with my own ears – but I have forgiven her, and so should you.) That being said, if you want a really good song to get you out in the sun to watch crack whores, this is the one for you.

8 ) The Kooks – “Naïve”
This is that song for the ex from a previous summer who you inevitably see at various summer things like pedestrian Sunday or outside Sneaky Dee’s, and it’s so nostalgic seeing them that you forget that you were ever mad at each other, or that you haven’t talked in months… So you run over like a maniac to talk to them and you guys like freak out and hug and get as far as an excited “Oh my God! How are you!” and a “Good! So good! You?” “Good!” when there is that awkward silence that feels like an eternity because you realize that you hadn’t thought this far ahead when you decided to run over. This song is a good substitute for that nostalgia, without the inept attempt at sustaining a conversation.

7) Gravy Train – “Drinkin 40s”
Because university gets out before high school, and there is one right by my house – a Catholic high school, and EVERYONE wears those uniforms, like the girls have the shortest skirts ever. They come past my work and I swear I can see the better part of their asses just while they are walking. I then think of this song, and laugh to myself, imagining how awesome it would be to park my ass out on the curb across from the high school with five or six of my friends, drinkin’ 40s and waitin’ for Gravy Train to show up and pick up a young virgin switch from the bunch.

6) Kanye West – “The New Workout Plan”
Yeah. I went there. You want to make something of it tough guy? Say what you will about the song but three minutes and 30 seconds into this song, it does something so amazing that I can’t leave it off my list… AND it has a soul clap. A FUCKING SOUL CLAP. The defense rests.

5) M.I.A. – “URAQT”
Last summer my best friend and I drove around the Rocky Mountains listening ONLY to this CD as it was the only one we had with us… which was poor planning, but surprisingly, this song was the high point of our drive every time it came on. We think it’s the horn loop. That and it talks about jumping off things.

4) Black Eyes – “Deformative”
It’s short. It’s fast. It talks about being 16 and driving south from Baltimore. There is not another song in existence that makes me feel more like I was in grade ten than this song. Back when I had to walk everywhere… me and my friends running alongside houses in the dark on Saturday nights at midnight to elude the police. Getting rides from the older kids we knew to skate parks. Jumping out my bedroom window at midnight to a waiting crowd of four or five teenagers with a backpack full of whiskey and beer. It says it all. What better way to feel as invincible now as I felt then? Exactly.

3) Modest Mouse – “So much beauty in dirt”
Take everything you wish you did today and put it in a song and it is this one. In fact, I’m going to get real drunk and ride my bike right now.

2) Wolf Parade – “Grounds for Divorce”
This song is like, first year. Maybe because I moved to a place where there were buses, from a place that didn’t even have a streetlight (see song four for explanation), but this song and the way that it builds and its sort-of subtle excitement makes me feel like all my pictures from the last few years should be slide-showing to it, concluding with one of me and my six closest friends with our arms linked and an arm in the air holding a drink in a backyard.

1) Thrush Hermit – “From the Back of the Film”
If anyone just went, “Ooooohhhh maaaannnn!” then my life has a purpose after all. Don’t you love this song? Man! I can’t even adequately explain how perfect this song is for the summer, but I could listen to it every single day and every single time as soon as it’s over I’ll go “Fuck yeah!” It’s a great song. If you have never heard it, and you grew up in Ontario, shame on you. Get it. You can download it. I know you can. Hell, send me an email and I will send it to you personally.

Honourable mentions go to:

The Streets – “Don’t mug yourself”
(For the morning after new dates.)
Handsome Boy Modeling School Feat. Jack Johnson – “Breakdown”
(I think Jack Johnson is the unofficial spokesperson of summer anyways…)
Tegan and Sara – “Come on Kids”
(Go on kids…)

And that’s all. So go ahead and enjoy the heat. Eat right, sleep tight. Your friend, Jenny.

Twelve Songs of Summer

Posted by music On July - 17 - 2007

Or, John Hastings’ love affair with breezy guitar riffs.

By John Hastings

So, here’s my shot at a Twelve Songs of Summer list. It’s all over the place, but that’s what a good mix tape should be! I’ve spent summers at my cottage and lived on islands in Southeast Asia, so I’ve got all sorts of reasons for dropping songs down here. It was hard, but here’s my best shot, in no particular order, with a dash of explanation as well.

1) Ween – “Bananas and Blow” from White Pepper (2000)
Who better than Ween to get everyone laughing and dancing? This was a staple for me in Thailand. It couldn’t NOT be on the list and it might just be my favourite beach song of all time.

2) Lily Allen – “LDN” from Alright, Still… (2007)
A new track that I’ve been loving in 2007. It’s got cottage road trips written all over it – that or bike riding in the city. Don’t miss this awesome summer tune.

3) Led Zeppelin – “Over the Hills and Far Away” from Houses of the Holy (1973)
I had to throw a classic in here. Who doesn’t love a little Zep on a hot summer day? This one has a distinctly warm afternoon feeling to it. Classic – and awesome.

4) Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Around the World” from Californication (1999)
In 1999 I climbed the fire escape of Sam The Record Man on Yonge St. in Toronto to see the Chilis play a free show on the street below. I also won tickets from a case of beer to see them at The Docks. My friends and I KILLED this disc. It will forever be a wicked summer album and this is the first track off of it.

5) Stellastarr* – “My Coco” from Stellastarr (2003)
Though not one of my favourite bands, Stellastarr*’s song “My Coco” absolutely rules. This tune will make ANY mix better. Start an afternoon of fun in the sun with this gem.

6) The Decemberists – “July, July!” From Castaways and Cutouts (2002)
I didn’t pick this song just because it’s called “July, July!” but that does help. One of my favourite bands of the last 5 years, something from Colin Meloy & Co. had to make my list and this one simply radiates summer (yes – for obvious reasons).

7) The Tragically Hip – “Bobcaygeon” from Phantom Power (1998)
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, The Tragically Hip have a few special tunes that make any evening on the dock at the cottage a special one. This track is perfect in particular if you ever find yourself in cottage country just outside of Toronto. It was hard to choose as a fan of The Hip, but for a mix “Bobcaygeon” is great.

8 ) Porno For Pyros – “Tahitian Moon” from Good God’s Urge (1996)
Often overlooked, Perry Farrell’s Porno For Pyros rocked once upon a time. This song cannot be left out of a mix if you’re planning on skinny dipping on a beach or stargazing from your back porch. Beautiful and poignant. Don’t miss out.

9) Kings of Leon – “Red Morning Light” from Youth & Young Manhood (2003)
A bit of country twang always helps a cold beer on a summer afternoon. I started loving these guys during monsoon season in Taiwan and found a new love for them on hot summer days back in Canada. This is my favourite offering from their best album so far.

10) Modest Mouse – “Float On” from Good News For People Who Love Bad News (2004)
Maybe an obvious choice, but there’s just no denying that this song is totally awesome. Not my favourite album from these guys, but this song is so summer it hurts. That riff is just so damn catchy. Great for the car.

11) The New Pornographers – “Letter From An Occupant” from Mass Romantic (2000)
For some reason I’ve just loved this song for mixes since I first heard it. Neko Case is great on this track. I wouldn’t call it my first choice, but since I’ve been rocking it for so long I just couldn’t keep it off. I had to have that good Canadian rock n’ roll.

12) Sublime – “Santeria” from Sublime (1996)
One of the best songs ever written for the summer. ‘Nuff said.

So that’s my Top Twelve Summer Songs. I’m sure I’ve overlooked something that I absolutely love, but this will do. I’m going to burn this mix right now and catch some rays. Here’s to a great summer 2007!

Have a BBQ on the Beach With Me!

Posted by music On July - 9 - 2007

I Even Made a Mixed CD!

By Natalie Sylvie Plourde

Trying to make a summer playlist skimpier than my bikini was a challenge. This task required tact and precision. More importantly it needed a setting. So, while there are about 250 other songs I would classify as super-extra “summer tracks”, these 12 are particularly good for barbeques on the beach with friends (hence the title of the list).

For best results, please enjoy the list in the order it is written in. Particularly the last three songs, which sound best just as you’re finishing your hamburgers and the sun is beginning to set. Go ahead, have another beer.

Disclaimer: Some songs may be considered cliché additions, but to me there’s something near blasphemous about omitting Bob Marley from a summer list. Sometimes it is best to go with the obvious.

1) “Define A Transparent Dream” by The Olivia Tremor Control
2) “Lucky Charm” by Apples in Stereo
3) “Peace Frogs” by The Doors
4) “12:51″ by The Strokes
5) “Summertime” by Janis Joplin
6) “Wooden Ships” by Crosby Stills Nash and Young
7) “Sun is Shining”by Bob Marley
8 ) “Inaudible Melodies” by Jack Johnson
9) “Badfish” by Sublime
10) “Concrete Schoolyard” by Jurassic 5
11) “Pacific Theme” by Broken Social Scene
12) “The Orchids” by Califone

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