Tag: The Rural Alberta Advantage
Welcome to the present! Over the next week I will outline the best albums of 2009, upping the number to 20 for no discernible reason. Now, I present you with 20 to 11.
20. Rock Plaza Central – …At the Moment of Our Most Needing
Chris Eaton is sort of like that homeless guy you run into on the street corner. He’s ranting on the street apparently nonsensically, until you listen to his words and realise that they are, in fact, quite profound. The song titles themselves are quite evocative and sound like pronouncements on life from a time long past: ‘(Don’t You Belief the Words of) Handsome Men’, ‘Oh Lord, How Many are My Foes?’, ‘Them That are Good and Them That are Bad’, ‘We are Full of Light (That Blinds Us at the Moment of Our Most Needing)’ and ‘The Hot, Blind Earth’. On this album, RPC combine these wordscapes with music that is equally engrossing.
19. The View – Which Bitch?
The first View album, 2007’s Hats Off to the Buskers was very Libertines-alike, solid but kind of unexceptional. They grew by leaps and bounds on its follow-up, transforming themselves into somewhat mad, Pirates of Penzance-type purveyors of Britrock sea shanties, touching ballads and some general rock and roll.
18. Elvis Perkins – Elvis Perkins in Dearland
It’s hard to stand out as a man with a guitar, as half the world seems to fancy themselves a singer-songwriter at any given point of time. Perkins manages to get under your skin by just sounding honest and producing solid, genial and personable work. He sounds like the type of guy you’d invite over for tea, just to shoot the breeze.
17. Bruce Peninsula – A Mountain is a Mouth
Bruce Peninsula are incredibly adept at delivering both the joy and the brimstone of gospel music, without the pesky god contingent. Tent revival folk and rock and roll, I’d join this cult.
16. Dinosaur Jr. – Farm
Dinosaur Jr.’s second act has been strong, and this year’s Farm is just about the best thing the band has done since its late 80s salad days. Tuneful and noisy (but in a grown-up way), this is the type of music Neil Young would make if he took things a level more distorted.
15. …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead – The Century of Self
Most critics hold up 2002’s Source Tags & Codes as the band’s high water mark, but I find them even more exciting on their later releases, where they got more experimental and challenging. This has led to some erratic output (like 2006’s So Divided) but The Century of Self is a great distillation of their heavy tunefulness and esoteric meanderings. This is epic music that remains rebellious and stimulating.
14. Bear in Heaven – Beast Rest Forth Mouth
Shoegaze with a Krautrock beat is a pretty accurate description of Bear in Heaven. I knew nothing of this band but their second album has got under my skin with its heavy, narcotized and hypnotic vibe.
13. Bat for Lashes – Two Suns
Natasha Khan takes herself pretty seriously, but it at least results in some fine music. Her second album as Bat for Lashes builds on the strong start of 2007’s Fur and Gold. Her sound has evolved and grown and her musical scope now matches her artistic ambitions.
12. Mumford and Sons – Sigh No More
In my earlier review of this album, I pointed out that Marcus Mumford and co. weren’t exactly original in their musical stylings. I stick by that, but I also realise that I’d be completely missing the point to leave it at that. Music should be fun and moving (sometimes ‘being original’ equates with ‘being unlistenable’) and almost everybody makes the noise we call song with a handful of instruments and a bit of tuneful ranting over top. It’s what you do with it that matters, and Mumford and Sons imbue their debut album with so much joy and passion that I keep returning to this album for sheer enjoyment much more regularly than I turn to the next big chin-stroking indie band.
11. The Rural Alberta Advantage – Hometowns
This album was technically released in 2008, but it didn’t gain any traction until this year, when it was re-released by Saddle Creek. It’s a frantic, nerdy take on alt-country, one as indebted to 1990s indie rock bigwigs like Neutral Milk Hotel as it is to the fairly traditional leanings of their alt-country forbearers like Uncle Tupelo. This is affecting and modern music, and shows there’s more to western Canada than just cowboys (even if the RAA relocated to Toronto).
New Music News
December is a quiet month for exciting new releases, but there was some pretty great news on the UK singles charts this week. For the last four years, Simon Cowell’s cynical, factory-produced and generally terrible music (even by pop standards) has inexplicably topped the singles charts in the UK in the all-important lead up to Christmas. This year, an ingenious Facebook campaign was started to try to unseat the hideous Cowell juggernaut with something a bit more real. The song chosen was Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing in the Name’ and its famous refrain of ‘Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!’ To be completely honest, I liked the idea but thought it stood, well, a snowball’s chance in hell of actually winning the Christmas singles chart. I was proven happily wrong this week, as the good, good people of Britain managed to vault RATM to the top of the chart, beating [Insert interchangeable name here]’s X Factor entry, ‘[Insert interchangeable song title/song here]’. Even better, Rage donated some of the proceeds to a homeless charity. However, this should be seen as a social, rather than musical, victory. As others have pointed out more eloquently, RATM is not on the top of the charts because all of a sudden people decided that a 17 year old song was what they really wanted to listen to. No, they bought it as a big middle finger up to the X Factor juggernaut. That’s fine too, but like I said, it’s a statement, rather than a display of musical love. In fact, as much as I’m loathe to admit it, a greater majority of the people who bought that X Factor song probably did so for musical reasons than those who bought Rage (even bland corporate balladry is technically music). In addition, I’m sure Cowell isn’t losing a lot of sleep, as the campaign no doubt drove sales of HIS song up too. This is just some food for thought on the issue, but it’s still a pretty cool outcome. Sure, it may not be the big victory for music over corporate interests in the recording industry that some people long for, but I’ll take what I can get.