Barrettbites Top 10 “Super-Awesome” Songs of 2015

beck dreams

Could you make a lasting impression in mere minutes? The kind of connection that lasts a lifetime completed in clicks of a second-hand. That’s what a great song does.

Of course, the best tunes have you forget time even exists until the last moment, when you wish they could go on for much longer… if only to recapture the feeling you just had. Instead we can only replay it; in some desperate attempt to keep that response (whatever it was) going.

 10. The Elwins – “Show Me How To Move”

Coming off like a cross between The Cars, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, and Motion City Soundtrack “Show Me How To Move” is an infectious little gem about life’s insecurities. It’s catchy enough to stay in your head for weeks without wearing out its welcome.

 9. Terra Lightfoot – “Never Will”

A pure blast of rock ‘n’ roll delivered from just down the QEW in Hamilton. Terra Lightfoot put together a record full of gems with “Never Will” leading the charge.

 8. City & Colour – “Lover Come Back”

The second single from If I Should Go Before You, “Lover Come Back” is an outstanding soul tinged tune harkening back to the days of Stax was the king of Memphis.

 7. Wolf Alice – “Moaning Lisa Smile”

On first listen, “Moaning Lisa Smile” sounds like it may have been dropped into us from 1992, with its nineties alt rock vibe. However, it was just the start to what turned out to be a great record. Can’t wait for more!

 6. Hollerado – “Firefly”

“Firefly” was a 7” single released on record store day as part of the coolest release of the day. Buy the little green vinyl, and get a download card for 111 songs. How many bands can say they released 10 albums worth of material with a 45 RPM.

 5. Nathaniel Rateliff & the Nightsweats – “S.O.B.”

Conjuring sounds ranging from Van Morrison to Elvis Presley, “S.O.B” was the single that started the ball rolling on a great record and rave reviews from everywhere Rateliff went to play.

 4. Cage The Elephant – “Mess Around”

It’s only been around for a few weeks, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t a great song. Full of influences ranging from the UK to San Francisco, it rides a great groove from start to finish.

 3. Courtney Barnett – “Pedestrain At Best”

Talk about a salvo! Barnett’s “Pedestrain At Best” is like a personal mission statement to music. She puts out songs that carry the confessional style of Paul Westerberg (the Replacements), the humour of David Lowery (Cracker, Camper Van Beethoven) and energy of the frickin Pixies.

 2. Alabama Shakes – “Don’t Wanna Fight”

Somewhere between soul, disco and straight up rock ‘n’ roll, “Don’t Wanna Fight” is the kind of tune that hits emotionally and has you singing along. Even my kids try hitting those high notes as we cruise the streets in the minivan.

 1. Beck – “Dreams”

Speaking of my kids, “Dreams” was their favourite of the year, as well as mine. Like the most memorable of Beck’s work, it had elements of hip-hop built into the rhythm, a great ‘wonky’ guitar riff, and lyrics that captured the imagination even when they seemingly made sense only within the context of a dream. Only wish it was supported by a full album.

 

Barrettbites Top Ten Spectacular Vinyl Releases of 2015

DSCN7927

Try as I might to live in denial of it, the music world has evolved into this digital place where music is consumed by means of digital downloads and streams in the millions. Still, there are those amongst us for whom vinyl has remained the preferred method of listening and enjoying our cherished music collection. The tactile nature of removing wax from a sleeve, gently dropping a needle on a spinning disc, sitting back in a chair and, finally investigating the album cover for bits of information that will further connect, and maybe even enhance the joy received when the music seeps into your consciousness.

For those of us caught up in vinyl, sometimes we are given opportunities to get rare and collectible records that are not only artistic expressions by the artists, but also the people who are creating the vinyl itself. Coloured vinyl not only sounds as great as the standard black, but stands out in the crowd for its unique look combined with awesome tunes. Here are ten outstanding examples of 2015 releases that took that extra step in not only releasing music, but providing incredible presentation too.

Lou Barlow – Brace The Wave

DSCN7920

Alternative lo-fi stalwart Lou Barlow (Sebadoh & Dinosaur Jr.) put out a solo work this year that not only sounded great, but also looked the part. Brace The Wave crashed the psyche with Barlow’s patented confusion and self loathing, dropping lines like “remember we were hipsters sleeping with our cats / young and thin and fucking crazy.” The album was desolate and beautiful in directing pain into expression. The vinyl itself had two variant editions. The first was sea foam green and the second was a combination of sea foam green and pink wax limited to 500 hand numbered copies. Needless to say, that 2nd option sold out quickly.

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

DSCN7890

Seemingly a part of everyone’s best of 2015 list, Barnett topped that by landing four Grammy nominations a few days back. Sometimes… is the kind of record that you just can’t help but play over and over again, as wit and rock join forces. In a rather unique move, the album was released with 4 variant editions being sold in different geographical regions. North Americans had orange coloured vinyl combined with a 7” and turntable slip mat. Australia and New Zealand had heavyweight white vinyl. The UK got two variants which included versions that were 2 LPS’s of orange translucent vinyl or two yellow translucent LP’s.

Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color

DSCN7889

Not to be outdone by Courtney Barnett, not only does Sound & Color end up on every year end list and receive four Grammy nominations, but it also lands one of those nominations in the Album Of The Year category. Upon its initial release, Alabama Shakes put out a clear variant edition for mass release and a more exclusive white coloured edition on sale at Urban Outfitters outlets.

City & Colour – If I Should Go Before You

DSCN7887

Combining folk, soul, country and rock, Dallas Green and Co. put out a record that changes direction much like the seasons. It seems appropriate that they would also release four different variant editions for their fans. The first, sold through their website and at shows was on ‘black smoke’ vinyl. The second, also sold on their home page, was a very ‘holiday season’ looking two disc set on red followed by green vinyl. Only 300 were issued. The next set, limited to 1000 copies, was exclusive to Newbury Comics on two pieces of ‘coke bottle’ green 180 gram vinyl. Finally, from band’s store was the ‘Beauty Bundle’ box set. Limited to 1000 copies, it included two pieces of ‘bone’ colored 180 gram vinyl that plays at 45rpm, as well as a bunch of other goodies for the hardcore fan willing to drop $80.00.

Calexico – Edge Of The Sun

DSCN7899

Such is the landscape that Calexico creates in its musical atmosphere, it just isn’t enough for them to write a bunch of singular songs that are placed together to create an album. They carefully craft a soundtrack which puts together music to evoke an emotional response. Their blend of Mariachi-Americana brings up a south-west location, but the camera then pans towards the setting sun and you’re hooked. Set on two pieces of 180 gram vinyl, their single variant edition has one turquoise while the other is mint green coloured. Looks and sounds great.

Juliana Hatfield Three – Whatever, My Love

DSCN7916

A natural follow up to 1993’s Become What You Are, (which it is), Whatever, My Love flows with much more ease than any of Hatfield’s more recent work. Released through American Laundromat Records, Whatever, My Love had a printing of only 500 vinyl copies, split between a clear version (125) and a purple splatter variant (375).

Langhorne Slim & The Law – The Spirit Moves

DSCN7902

Slim is a bit of an eclectic master, with themes of joy and misery intermingling with equal passion. Essentially, he is fearless in bending songs around multiple influences. Horns play on a number of tracks and in a different way each time. On “Spirit Moves” he uses them as a counter melody, similar to Johnny Cash’s classic “Ring Of Fire” and then brings them back later for “Life’s A Bell” as a Memphis Horns/Stax/Otis Redding tool for emotional emphasis. With the ever present acoustic instruments, some songs drift towards sounds reminiscent of Nick Drake and Cat Stevens, but the album as a whole pulls everything back into that unique Langhorne Slim vision. The variant vinyl is ‘coke bottle’ clear matching the tone of the album cover.

Django Django – Born Under Saturn

DSCN7878

Riding slow moving waves of psychedelic electronica mixed with surf rock, Django Django deliver a record that is a thrill for your ears. Born Under Saturn is like taking a drive (as a passenger) in a convertible with a blindfold on; you don’t know where the hell you’re going but the journey sure feels incredible. They also had one of the most outstanding looking pieces of vinyl for their alternate editions having orange translucent vinyl with white splatter effect giving it a look of fireworks going off.

Metric – Pagans In Vegas

DSCN7924

Haines sticks mostly to the themes of broken relationships and rising back up after a fall. While this album might seem like a bit of rock ‘n’ roll cliché at times, Metric pulls off the desired impact of connecting us to the music. So when Haines’ vocals demand “the stars above” on early single “The Shade (I Want It All)”, the listener feels entitled to it as well. Metric put out two alternate vinyl versions of Pagans In Vegas. Sold through the band’s own web store, the first variant was on 1180 gram audiophile vinyl and limited to 1200 copies. The other, sold through Newbury Comics, was on white coloured vinyl and limited to 1000 copies.

Alvvays – Eponymous

DSCN7912

While this Alvvays debut record was technically a 2014 release, its steady rise in prominence has made it a 2015 staple. Led by the single “Archie, Marry Me”, Alvvays has created an album that is a damn fine ‘90’s – esque’ alt-rock record. In addition to the standard black vinyl sold through record stores, the band released four other versions. Included in the mix was electric blue, clear, orange and a pale blue splatter.

Barrettbites Top Ten Records of 2015

 

  1. Alvvays – eponymous

alvvayscover

Chalked full of stories about the complexities of relationships, Alvvays have constructed an album that is able to seem both introspective and dynamic. Using nonchalance and humour simultaneously, they set the scenes of emotional distress to an indie soundtrack and let the barbs fly. Go back and take another listen to “Marry Me, Archie” if you need proof of the power struggle within a relationship.

  1. Metric – Pagans In Vegas

metric pagans

Metric has never hidden their overwhelming desire to headline a fan-filled stadium show, and Pagans In Vegas has become the vehicle that drives them there. More than mere hyperbole, they seem to have found the perfect mix of Cure-like synth, 90’s indie guitar, and electro/dance rhythm. The tunes are catchy enough to get the casual fan singing along and the loyal fan seeking deeper meaning from the lyrics and, dare I say, inspiration.

  1. Best Coast – California Nights

bestcoast1

Gone is the warm washing fuzz of reverb on everything that had the words lo-fi and surf rock attached to their records, and in is a more ‘nineties-esqe’ alt-rock tone that could be slipped into a mix between the Lemonheads and Garbage. Thematically, this is also the case as Bethany Cosentino has switched gears and presented herself in a more realistic position as lyrics deal with insomnia, heartbreak and happiness in pill. The triumph of this record is that it doesn’t live in a world of manufactured dreams come true, eternal sun, and beaches. The emotions behind it are universal and hence you can relate to it. California Nights is proof positive that beauty can be found in the balanced mix of power-pop and introspection, and that’s a sunny thought all by itself.

  1. Ezra Furman – Perpetual Motion People

efurmanpmp

Like early Bowie, Furman seems to relish changes in identity, except rather than do it from album to album Perpetual Motion People is a record that does it from song to song, and sometimes, within a single song. “Haunted Head” deals with one’s own self inflicted torment. “Can I Sleep In Your Brain” seeks respite from torment with a wish to become co-dependent. In turn, “Lousy Connection” hides themes of emotional distance behind old sounds of Doo-Wop and killer saxophone leads. To a certain extent, Furman makes being screwed up sound fun in his unique version of a poetic stream of consciousness.

  1. City & Colour – If I Should Go Before You

city&colourif i should

Dallas Green may have started City and Colour as a means to introduce his ‘rootsy’ brand of song craft, but those days are now more of an ‘origin story’ than the reality of where he is. Much like Wilco, who turned from alt-country to sonic experimenters, Green took his acoustic-based leanings and is now creating expansive tunes that, at times, owe more to blues, soul and even psychedelia than the modern ‘folk rock’ he was labeled with on earlier City and Colour records.

  1. Leon Bridges – Coming Home

leon bridges

His peer group may include contemporaries like Nick Waterhouse and Raphael Saadiq, but Bridges’ ups the game of capturing old-school R&B by pulling in music that could’ve been created by the Blues Brothers Band. He’s got the brass sounding like the legendary Memphis Horns, a deep groove reminiscent of Duck Dunn and the minimalist guitar leads that you might swear were coming off Steve Cropper. Then you mix in a style that slides in a suave 60’s Bacharach martini dance party and you get a glimpse of the power possessed in Coming Home.

  1. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats – eponymous

nrns

It takes a special kind of musician to evoke a slew of soul greats and retain an energy and sound that is still their own. Springsteen did this by mixing Dylan, a preacher style intensity towards rock ‘n’ roll, a few soul influences, and concocted a sound all his own. Nathaniel Rateliff has taken the ’69 comeback version of Elvis, added southern rock themes and walked into a STAX studio to create a record that is instantly relatable. Of course, you would never have caught “the King” singing “son of a bitch / give me a drink” as Rateliff does on “S.O.B”. It just wouldn’t have been very, um… regal.

  1. Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color

sound&color

If Alabama Shakes debut Boys & Girls was a first shot across the bow against musical mediocrity, then Sound & Color is a full on declaration of war. Not content to merely ride the wave of being the best rock ‘n’ soul or Southern rock band to currently grace the planet, they expand and grow. It’s the kind of growth and experimentation one got from Radiohead when they leapt from The Bends to OK Computer; or in other words – WOW!

  1. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

cb1

Sarcastic and playful in the most observational of ways, Courtney Barnett makes stinging shots sound like a musical sit-com. Characters inhabit a ‘Seinfeld-esqe’ place where nothing seems larger than life and decisions don’t necessarily lead to conclusions. However, the journey is one hell of an adventure. Barnett makes music that is fun, thought provoking, and really damn catchy. It’s a really weird moment to hear your children singing “all I want to be is an elevator operator, can you help me please.”

  1. Terra Lightfoot – Every Time My Mind Runs Wild

terralightfoot

Every so often something comes along that just smacks you in the head with something so freaking unexpected you look for a house number on the cave you’ve been sleeping in. Perhaps it’s a debut album, an opening act you had never heard of before, or, as is the case for me, you just quite plainly arrived late to the party. Whatever the case, Terra Lightfoot has just lit the light bulb above my cranium and I’m hitting my forehead with that big “a-ha” moment.

What seems most remarkable is just how many influences pop out all at once. A foot in the Chicago blues, another in Memphis soul, and then she puts a third one in Nashville. The result is a combustible and full out gritty rock ‘n’ roll album.

Five Great Albums From 2015 (so far!)

So the mid way part of the year has passed and with a bit of time to reflect, here are my top 5 of 2015 so far. It is hard to rank, as so many great records have been spinning their way into my psyche. So I reserve the right to change my mind later.

5) Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool

wolfalicecool

Built around strong guitar work and soaring vocals, Wolf Alice bridges the gap between the 90’s alt-rock revival and the more modern Brit-Rock led by the Arctic Monkeys and their recent disciples Royal Blood. It would have been fun to play Guitar Hero to their tunes.

4) Best Coast – California Nights

bestcoast1

Gone is the warm washing fuzz of reverb on everything that had the words lo-fi and surf rock attached to their records, and in is a more ‘nineties-esqe’ alt-rock tone that could be slipped into a mix between the Lemonheads and Garbage. California Nights has a way of sinking under your skin and making you want to play them over and over again.

3) Leon Bridges – Coming Home

leon bridges

He’s got the brass sounding like the legendary Memphis Horns, a deep groove reminiscent of Duck Dunn and the minimalist guitar leads that you might swear were coming off Steve Cropper. Then you mix in a style that slides in a suave 60’s Bacharach martini dance party and you get a glimpse of the power possessed in Coming Home. In essence, Bridges is the ‘new old soul.’

2) Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit

cb1

Sarcastic and playful in the most observational of ways, Courtney Barnett makes stinging shots sound like a musical sit-com. Characters inhabit a ‘Seinfeld-esqe’ place where nothing seems larger than life and decisions don’t necessarily lead to conclusions. However, the journey is one hell of an adventure.

1) Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color

sound&color

If Alabama Shakes debut Boys & Girls was a first shot across the bow against musical mediocrity, then Sound & Color is a full on declaration of war. Not content to merely ride the wave of being the best rock ‘n’ soul or Southern rock band to currently grace the planet, they expand and grow. It’s the kind of growth and experimentation one got from Radiohead when they leapt from The Bends to OK Computer; or in other words – WOW!

Dear God Stop Me; But Which Band Wagon Should I Jump Upon or Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit…

cb1

Weeks now have gone by and ‘buzz’ is still everywhere about Courtney Barnett. In one day as I trolled only those blogs that have similar interests to my own I found six people writing about her. That was without typing her name or even trying to find anything out. Once you jump into the world of both paper and online publications, well, the raves don’t stop. So I listen and find good reason for all the accolades, but now that I know, what the hell should I buy?

A quick check around and you find out that that not only has she released her stuff across several formats, but when it comes to vinyl, she has multiple versions within the same format.

Option A – Good old fashioned plain single disc black vinyl

Option B – Special Edition single disc orange translucent vinyl with a  lp slipmat

Option C – Deluxe Gatefold two disc orange translucent vinyl with bonus 7”

Option D – Limited Edition gatefold cover two disc heavy weight white vinyl

Now of course your options are somewhat, but not entirely, dependent upon your geographic location. Also, your choice may be dictated to by the amount of paper in the wallet, and how quickly you decide you want it. You see, the U.S. record company only printed 100 of that double orange, but in Europe, I see some for sale. The white version is only in Australia and New Zealand and the shipping is more than the cost of the record – IF – you could find a copy.

My prediction is that buying any of the limited colour vinyl stuff now would save you from quadruple that price later if it is something you want.

The music is great, mucho sarcastic, witty and fun, but I can’t decide which version I’m wanting and how much I’m willing to pay for it…

Playlist March 29/15


nirvana colour

1. “Love Buzz” – Nirvana

Something about the bass line in “Love Buzz” that at times seems both sinister and fun. Then the guitar kicks in and you can’t decide which instrument to ‘air-play’ to, and when you finally decide, you find yourself doing vocals and tearing your throat apart in a vain attempt to capture that fierce Cobain voice. I could listen to this over and over like a demented 13 year old and never see myself getting sick of it.

2. “Kid With Crooked Face” – Bob Mould

A long time ago, I saw Sugar play several times. I was always blown away by how Mould can convey image and emotion with a dry vocal competing against his fierce (and very loud) guitar work. He’s also the guy that convinced me to have a pair of ear plugs in my pocket at a concert… my ears were ringing for two days after I saw Sugar for the first time.

3. “The Simspsons Theme” – Green Day

Well I couldn’t very well talk about the Lego Simpsons house without sneaking in this wonderful bit of Green Day noise.

4. “The Way We Were” – Me First & the Gimme Gimmes

Most people think of Streisand when they hear this song. Instead I get killed by the heartache and laughter of the late great Gilda Radner. I think she would like this version too.

5. “In The Heat Of The Moment” – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

Noel Gallagher is one of those artists I will purchase without even hearing a song. He just has that dependable rock’n’roll sound that gets me humming in whatever setting I’m in.

6. “Listen To Some Music” – BMX Bandits

Glasgow band has fun with a jangling low-fi house party sound. Would love to see them live, but the Atlantic Ocean provides a small barrier between me and that little dream.

7. “Spider-Man” – The Mr. T Experience

I must have listened to a 100 different versions before I picked this one. You would think I would get sick of it… but no – I just wondered where the hell the Ramones version went.

8. “Lampshades On Fire” – Modest Mouse

Like the song, but if I see a lampshade on fire, I’m reaching for a frickin’ extinguisher, not dancin’ around.

9. “Panic In Detroit” – David Bowie

This is a preview – I will soon be writing about a special vinyl acquisition and I couldn’t wait to play something from it. Here’s a picture – I just hope it sounds as good as it looks.

10. “The Great Salt Lake” – Band Of Horses

Arriving with the new Modest Mouse, came this great record in a coke bottle clear colour. Sounds great, looks great, and is another of that limited stuff I buy every so often.

11. “On My Wall” – Travis

I’ve been a fan of Travis for years, but the weird thing is, I couldn’t tell you much about them other than the Brit-Pop connection and that I have always enjoyed them. It’s like they have been stuck on the mellow side of Radiohead’s The Bends, and continue to dwell and explore that place.

12. “Lego” – The Maccabees

The band with a religious name that doesn’t follow any religion – but can write a pretty decent tune involving Lego… well ok… as usual my wit has escaped me.

13. “Delinquency” – V Twin

Another Glasgow band said to be the “Next Big Thing” falls short. Still, like Teenage Fanclub before them, they write some great tunes. Only problem is finding their stuff.

elephant2

14. “The Hardest Button To Button” – The White Stripes

Seeing as I wrote about Elephant only yesterday, I figured they should hit the mix today. Besides it gave me another opportunity to include that Simpsons/White Stripes video.

15. “Elevator Operator” – Courtney Barnett

Due to my fascination with vinyl I don’t often talk about new artists, but damn, this song was too good to pass by without putting it into the mix, ask me in a month if I feel the same way about the album.

16. “Tin Soldier” – Small Faces

I was always a bigger Faces fan than the Small Faces, but in recent years I’ve gone back to discover that when these guys were at the top of their game, they were every bit as good as the Kinks and Who… which is about the biggest compliment I can give.

17. “The Letter” – The Box Tops

It’s hard to believe that Alex Chilton has departed this place; even harder to believe he was only 16 when he recorded and had a #1 hit with this song. He certainly doesn’t sound like a kid.

18. “Free Again” – Alex Chilton

Because I was in the mood for Chilton, I could help but throw this on right after the Box Tops. It is an awesome song in its own right. The album can still be purchased from Omnivore. For a good laugh, you can see how much Chilton hated lip-synching.

19. “Sundown” – Gordon Lightfoot

A prize find at last year’s RSD, I’ve spent many hours since mellowing by the window reading books and listening to this record.

20. “Echo Beach” – Martha & the Muffins

One of my favourite songs from childhood, it convinced me I really didn’t want to grow up. Unfortunately, responsibilities have a way of making such proclamations sound rather silly. Still, I would rather be at “Echo Beach” on a mid August evening than in front of a computer in March. It was a long winter.