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Summer Anthems

27 Mar

Is there anything better than a summer anthem? Fresh and oh so hot like a sausage on a grill. Sometimes these tunes are of a certain time and place and you forget about them come September. But sometimes they last even longer than a summer and whenever you hear it, you remember “sitting with your friends cause y’all remincise” (thanks Fresh Prince). Unsung loves summer so much that we made a classic playlist full of all-timers for your listening pleasure. And we humbly present two candidates for 2018’s anthem – Vance Joy’s “Saturday Sun”, already destined to top the charts, and George Ezra’s “Shotgun”. Both catchy as hell. Just try not to sing along.

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/differentcloud/playlist/0EAJzxaGDfTcQwac3ow82n

 

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The Unsung: Latest and Greatest

26 Jan

Hey Unsungers (yes, congratulations, you are now a noun, a Collective, a Hive, a Movement, a Way of Life):

Long time no speak. I’ve been busy just like i’m sure you have been. Life moves like a jet these days, past your field of view and gone. I’m now a father and enjoying everything that comes with it. In those fleeting moments, when i get a chance to think about music, i think about songs that evoke memories of youth, when life was free and easy.  Or I think about what songs my son should hear in his early days (admittedly this is an overthink, but if all the good willing western parents of the world can arrange for their newborns to fill their bellys with organic sugar free purees, shouldn’t they conspire to have the best of music for their souls? More on that in another post). Songs are always gateways to feelings for me – the happy, the sad, the nostalgic, the introspective. More than ever, i seek out songs to take me to a certain place when i have a minute to escape.

So we keep on moving forward. There are still soundtracks to our lives, songs that still grab hold. Here are my favorites at the moment and a few thoughts, all captured in a Latest and Greatest© playlist on spotify 

Michael Kiwanuka “Love and Hate” and “May This Be Love” The more I listen to Michael, the more i believe he is the true talent of our age. His album is so….deep. Get into him, please. 

Bahamas “Way With Words” A way with words is so important. A welcome return to the chillest man in rock. 

House of Pain “Top O’ the Morning to Ya” Retro throwback. My cousin Konrad and i use to roll around the mean streets of Calgary listening to white boy rap on our way to the courts to hoop it up. Yeah it doesn’t work with the rest of this playlist but…..Go Celtics.

The Vaccines “I Can’t Quit” I loved the first Vaccines album, ‘What Did You Expect From the Vaccines’. It was the perfect mix of the Strokes, stories about models, British classicism, and west coast cool. They have largely sucked since then, but this song seems like a return to form…

Ryan Adams “Where Will You Run” – A b-side to the excellent Prisoner. Here at Unsung, we’ve been long time fans of Ryan and he can do no wrong. Especially when he is doing his best Nirvana meets 80s power pop. When he starts yelping at 2:12, i believe in rock again.

Greta Van Fleet – “Black Smoke Rising” and “Highway Tune” shameless Led Zep guitar noodling and aping? Robert Plant howling? An album cover with allusions to mythical dark forest fires that summon the fellowship in your soul? Check, check and Triple Check. Should you care when it’s such a good rip-off? No. Let’s hope they don’t meet the same fate as Wolfmother.

The Sheepdogs “Nobody” The current Flagbearers of Canadian Classic Rock. Long live our shaggy friends. New album out now….this is an album track which i can picture drinking patio pilsners to. 

“Stardust” by Willie Nelson and Harry Connick, Jr. This song is my current earworm. I was a huge Harry Connick fan in the early 90s – i thought he was going to be the second coming of Frank Sinatra, with actual songwriting and instrumentation chops. Then he went and starred in a bad romcom with Sandra Bullock. But before the corruption, he recorded a cover album on his 25th birthday. Just him, a piano, a dark studio, and some of his favorite musicians. His version of Stardust, especially the piano at 3:50, haunts me. In my humble opinion, it is simply the saddest and the most soothing melody, a song about a song about love. And then we have Willie’s version, from the excellent 1978 album of the same name. It resurrected his career and offers a completely different interpretation, warm and fuzzy like only Willie can be. I mean, just check out the album backcover:

Kudos to my record store and whisky drinking sidekick Shaun for encouraging that vinyl purchase. I haven’t regretted one moment of listening to it with a bourbon in hand.

So, all in all, that’s the beauty of Stardust. An absolute classic, almost 100 years old.

The Weavers “Wimoweh” you should immediately recognize this rhythm if you are Lion King fan, a king of the Jungle, or a past guest at my wedding 🙂  The story behind this song is fascinating. This version, by Pete Seeger and the Weavers from the 50s, is considered the evolutionary bridge between the magnificent original, and the big hit The Tokens had in the 60s. (And the version my wife perfected live and in concert, in full marital bliss, in 2015)

Happy Weekend!

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/differentcloud/playlist/3EMB63YH6IS8bZLr3FR9vs

TOM PETTY

3 Oct

(A few words from Unsung Guest Writer Timmy T. Couldn’t have said it better myself. But I will add that our favorite Unsung Petty songs can be found at the bottom of this post. “You belong among the wildflowers…someplace you feel free” – Ed)

Image result for tom petty

You may all be aware of the recent passing of a rock legend. Mr. Tom Petty. After offering a moment of silence whilst downing a gloriously refreshing IPA from a Victoria brewery, I found myself reflecting upon what Tom Petty had meant to us all.

It’s often the smallest things you don’t realize. Tom’s music wasn’t just there. It was often there when we needed it most. That’s why he matters.

Some might say it wasn’t always groundbreaking. But, from using his music in a pivotal scene in Jerry Maguire that many would say pulled the now-classic movie forward at a critical moment (and juxtaposed his music to the Rolling Stones), to doing the whole soundtrack for She’s The One, Mr. Petty was more cinematic than we know. The Lumineers, our most recent torchbearer of folk-rock even pays tribute to the latter soundtrack by offering up their own cover of “Walls” during their last tour. I saw it. And, I went nuts. Because I knew that they knew that I knew. You know!? And, it was safe to say not everyone else did. Only those influenced by Petty and who were paying attention would know.

It may be an overused term, one even popularized by an actual band, but he was a soundtrack to our lives in ways we probably don’t even fully comprehend. An influence of catchy yet offbeat rhythms and lyrics that few can appreciate when failing to listen intentionally. Tom Petty captured hearts and minds and wasn’t afraid to push the envelope as most geniuses aren’t.

His contributions to rock n’ roll were infinite from the Travelling Wilburys to the profound lyrics of “The Last DJ” to the seven-plus minutes of one of the best live versions of any song anywhere any time, “Don’t Come Around Here No More”. A true and uncompromised artist  whose presence and musical gifts have fallen nothing short of free.

I am forever learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings. It’s time to move on, however. Time to get goin’. Underneath my feet, the grass is growin’.

Thank you, Tom. From the bottom of our hearts, souls and minds – thank you for everything, forever.

Michael Kiwanuka

21 Apr

The  (Man in the) Band:  Michael Kiwanuka

What’s the story? Back in 2012, I went to go see Alabama Shakes at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland. They were the hyped band of the moment: retro-roots soul-rockers set apart from rest of the crowd, largely due to their lead singer – Brittany Howard, a powerful charisma of Joplin inspired wailing and magnetism. She also was (and is) a black woman fronting a band of white dudes playing guitars, something not often seen and heard. Less heralded, but also on the bill that night, was a young black man named Michael Kiwanuka. I was startled to see him outside the front door of the Ballroom grabbing a smoke while I waited in line to get inside.  No one recognized him; he stood alone and looked very much out of place, and indeed a million miles from his home in the UK. But I remember that he looked so vulnerable and….lonely. So unlike the feeling he exuded in his music – that of a comfortable weekend midday in the sun. Songs like Bones and Home Again are as omnipresent in your local hipster-fied coffee shop as they are in your mother’s gentrified interior design store; most would recognize them or hum along, but I’m guessing doilies to donuts, they couldn’t pick Kiwanuka out of line up. So why do i mention the colour of his skin? The singer himself has struggled with his identity and his audience, and it wasn’t until the 2016 follow up to his brilliant debut album that we got a real sense of the slow burning dissatisfaction inside. Just listen to Black Man In A White World:

Goddamn. When was the last time you heard something with such a relentless groove that actually said something so relevant and resounding? For crying out loud, I’m a white man in a white world and i will never begin to understand, feel, appreciate, sympathize, emphasize the context, but it makes me wish i could. A song like this is triple threat: a declaration, a protest, and a statement of fact. It is brave and vulnerable all at once.

Perhaps out of ignorance or discomfiture, I initially overlooked the album Love & Hate, expecting and perhaps hoping for more of the same softness and soul as his previous work. It wasn’t until I started watching the twisted Big Little Lies (HBO couple drama at its most blatant) that its opening track, Cold Little Heart, another Kiwanuka composition, wove its way into me. Produced by Danger Mouse, the songs on Love & Hate expand the singer’s range and style to become cinematic. Now we get to experience the dark and light, and now i know we’re all be the better for it.

Sounds Like:  Shaft got his heart broken by Society and its Girl

The gateway songs: 

“I’ll Get Along”

“Waiting Around to Die”

“Cold Little Heart”

If You Like These Songs, Check Out:

Goldford “Ray of Sunshine”

Bill Withers “Use Me”

Leon Bridges ‘Coming Home’ album

Isaac Hayes “Walk On By”

 

 

Fleet Foxes: The Return

8 Mar

It has been far too long since we’ve had a chance to get lost in the epic, fragile, magic that is the Fleet Foxes. Lead singer Robin Pecknold took a hiatus from the band in 2011 to go back to school, (its unconfirmed, but probably to get a major in Wizardry and a minor in the Art of DragonSmything) but has finally returned from his sojourn. There is no purer voice in folk-rock than Pecknold. Start here and here for a refresher.  The sound of his song on their new track is a welcome respite to these Ides of March. Bring on the Third of May! (New album in June too)

Yes Virginia, There is a Good Christmas Playlist!

16 Dec

Image15New and Improved and Back By Popular Demand!!!

The snow is falling and Christmas season has begun! A few years ago, a similarly obsessed audiophile friend and I wanted to create a Christmas album that could be enjoyed by the young and old, of both sexes. After some spirited debate about what to include and exclude, and the merits of one version of a classic over another, the resulting playlist was a true collaborative effort, which, in the humble opinion of thy narrator, came pretty close to the mark.  The burnt CD has been on high demand since its very limited release to family and friends many years ago…..but now in the spirit of the season i think its only fair our greater UnSung audience gets a chance to listen. Below is the original excerpt from the disc:

The Christmas season is here all over again. In the spirit of giving and receiving, chestnuts and holly, hot totties and misteltoe, and ice and snow, a miracle brighter than the star of Bethelhem shines radiantly upon you – the gift of music. Two giant music labels (founded by two wise men) have come together to release a collection of Christmas songs that will be sure to leave you feeling more festive than the jolly fat man himself. From Sexsmith to Sinatra, the Boss to the Bing, this playlist is the soundtrack to our Christmases past, present and future. It is truly our Christmas wish that you sit down with those nearest and dearest, pour yourself a ‘lil rum and nog, close your eyes, and soak in the musical good tidings of comfort and joy” 

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Happy holidays!

Listen to the playlist here on Spotify!

 

Listen: Cohen’s Sisters of Mercy: one driving, one slow and sweet

8 Dec

Two great Canadian tributes to a Canadian master. “Yes you, who must leave everything you cannot control. It begins with your family, but soon comes ’round to your soul.”

Title: A busy day in the Videosphere, or The Right and Wrong Way to use guitars.

22 Sep

It’s one of those days where i discover a few new songs., which is sadly an occurrence that doesn’t happen often enough these days. I’m trying to come to terms with the new Kings of Leon single “Walls” and whatever the hell soft-rock middle-aged receding hairline one chord homeless man’s Beautiful War falling asleep waiting for something to happen that never does they are trying  to pull, and balancing that against the sheer clarity and honesty of Jack White’s emotional performance on Fallon last night:

 

And if that ain’t enough, Dawes is getting funky wit it (jury still out on whether they can survive in this newfound realm) :

 

And a friend just put the name of a band to a song that’s been prowling around my brain like a caged tiger on coca cola for weeks. Don’t you love when that happens? Gawd i miss guitars. Holy F has this got teenage urgency!

 

Goosebumps

19 Jul

Sometimes humanity is alright.

“My axe is on the bandstand”

28 Apr

A master and father figure to the Unsung still has his groove. No one can blend everyday conversation into larger themes like ol’ Rhymin’ Simon. Thanks to Tyler Alaric for the discovery.


Also if you missed this one from his last album, it covers a related theme. We all wait in line sometimes.