Unclouded

Image found here

Young Man • In A Sense

That moment when foggy patches on the mirror slowly dissolve into one clear portrait of a man. Those brown eyes stare with no answer. A face that once had so much promise.  And in the banal ritual and the mundane existence comes an interruption. A speck of sound. Led by a visionary being. Maybe a pathfinder. An inspiration to step out from an overbearing steam filled room, into crisp cool air. To get it done. To write about mistakes made. Or a heavy storm outside that should weigh you down, but instead ignites a fire. All thoughts unclouded. For now.

[get]

Advertisements

Man Without Country – The Songs of 2012

A dreadful 2012 comes to an end. I was obliterated and now moderately stabilized. Questions of belonging still flutter like manic fireflies in my head. Man without country. And through it all there was always music. This was a somewhat weak and uninspiring year for new sounds and writing. But just like in years past (here and here), I managed to compile a list of 20 songs that I should’ve written about, but couldn’t. These aren’t necessarily the songs I listened to the most, but rather the ones I want to remember 2012 by. I’ve gathered them here with words, in the hopes that they are the good I’ll carry with me into the future.

The songs below can be downloaded by clicking on the song title (right click+save). Clicking on an image will refer to its source.

So with the right amount of gloom and very little color. Here is my soundtrack of the past 365 days.

20 • Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy • I See A Darkness

We begin with seeing the glass half empty put to song. Familiar disintegration of a friendship. Will Oldham uplifts his own creation. Still honing in on the dark. Yearning for that person who’ll shed light. But now tapping a foot to the beat while at it.

[get]

19 • Major Lazer • Get Free (feat. Amber Coffman)

Like grasping for much-needed air, or yearning to wake up liberated of pain after a long and burdening ailment. A drive towards the unknown, with reggae music playing in the car.

[get]

https://i1.wp.com/www.alexeytitarenko.com/cityshadows_pix/city_pict5a.jpg18 • James Vincent McMorrow • Ghosts

You could weave this into a love story with pale faces, fangs and wolves. This is off the Twilight soundtrack. I have yet to see an installment. Detached of any preconceived notions of what I think that vampire saga is, I listen to James Vincent McMorrow serve up haunting and beautiful sounds intertwined.

[get]

17 • WhoMadeWho • Inside World

Hot Chip disenchanted and LCD Soundsystem vanished, so I turned to these Danish innovators for a boost instead.

[get]

16 • Fiona Apple • Regret

1999 seems so far away. Late teenage years and Fast As You Can. Two decades later Fiona Apple’s angst remains, and has that PJ Harvey edge to it that penetrates even more. Filled with fired-up imagery set to an acoustic backdrop, The Idle Wheel is arguably the best album of the year. Or maybe simply a heartbreaking work of staggering genius © Dave Eggers.

[get]

15 • Efterklang • The Ghost

A marching band from Denmark charges towards you in slow motion. Forces you to address hidden demons. Hoists you up to another stratosphere. To get a different perspective and figure out who you are.

[get]

14 • The Walkmen • Heaven

Rock anthem for a new generation.

[get]

13 • Sharon Van Etten • Ask

The slow and steady rise of SVE. We’ve come a long way since the much-loved Much More Than That. I was a participant throughout. Seeing her live for the third time this year, she performed Tramp in its entirety. An album polished, decorated and so very complete. As smoke floats outside my window she sings Like cigarette ash / the world is collapsing around me. And what follows is a confession I could never make.

[get]

12 • Bat For Lashes • All Your Gold

There is an uncanny resemblance to that Gotye hit. The difference is that Natasha Khan doesn’t yell. She seduces. Powers over with a bass line to keep you alert. Concludes with warm strings so that you fall for her once more. And never hurt her again.

[get]

11 • Grizzly Bear • Yet Again

September 26 Massey Hall. Grizzly Bear put on a spectacle. Their lighting designer deserves some sort of award for those illuminated flying jellyfish in the background. It was a painfully slow falling in love with Shields. Now I’m not quite sure where that feeling is. I’m mainly left with this hit.

[get]

10 • Melody’s Echo Chamber • I Follow You

True dream pop. Melody Prochet adheres to the genre with hypothesized words of devotion. With a hook, an irresistible soaring electric guitar and the moment of truth at 2:51 when fantasy becomes a reality.

[get]

9 • Young Galaxy • Shoreless Kid

The sole Canadians on this list. Every song they release seems superior to the one before. A clear evolution of sound. And here, the moments that bear no words are exceptionally crisp. Moments that elevate towards the crest of a hill, it being 4:16 where Nothing’s as simple / As knowing you’re safe / In your home / At the end of the night.

[get]

8 • Jai Paul • Jasmine

A phenom emerged in 2010. Now he teases once again with a demo that keeps you yearning for more. More manipulation. More of that falsetto, so distinctly recognizable. A single every two years is simply not enough. He moves at his own pace. So in the meantime, trip the light fantastic.

[get]

7 • Heartless Bastards • Marathon

A race. This song is a marathon. Slow and steady. Can seem monotonous with heartbeats too regular. But then the moment of truth at 5:25, when the end is in sight. And the exhilarating sound you want to hear while crossing a finish line.

[get]

https://i1.wp.com/payload75.cargocollective.com/1/0/128/3812235/tumblr_lywy9vgIt51qawyaco2_500.jpg6 • Scott Matthews • Seems So Long Ago, Nancy

The master of covers returns. Scott Matthews once delivered the greatest rendition of a Smiths song, and now tackles Leonard Cohen, a master of his own accord. A classic waltz, the tragic tale of Nancy melts ever so slightly into an even smoother tune. The poetry I wish I could come up with.

[get]

5 • The Tallest Man On Earth • Little Brother

A Swedish Dylan-esque plea. Let’s get lucid. Let’s be better.

[get]

4 • The Naima Train • Goodbye 5 Times

The Scandinavian invasion carries on. Maria Nyström is the most recent addition to this list. She holds a secret in her voice. States the obvious while twirling, looping and playing magic tricks. Conducts a train and I am on board.

[get]

 

3 • Twin Shadow • Five Seconds

A track that belongs to this past summer of thorny walks along the streets I live in. A guitar that throws me back to a song I can’t recall. My childhood mid 80s in Israel. Something about George Lewis Jr’s song delivery makes me a non-believer. This is a fearsome act. A straightforwardness that is denial. A great false alarm that begs repetition.

[get]

https://i0.wp.com/payload.cargocollective.com/1/0/128/134667/david-lynch-e-isabella-rossellini1.jpg2 • Jessie Ware • Wildest Moments

A marvel. Jessie Ware delivers the perfect pop ballad. The nature of things boxed into 3 minutes and 42 seconds with a gorgeous vocal and a drum that’s the heartbeat of a relationship. Through the good and bad. As a summer memory, this tune was playing in repeat, over and over, while struggling to walk down Bloor Street en route to yet another exhausting therapy session. Wishing I could move to this at a different pace.

[get]

https://i0.wp.com/payload53.cargocollective.com/1/0/128/3365364/6836186295_5e84de15c7_b_905.jpg1 • Susanne Sundfør • White Foxes

Winter came early this year. The past summer was a haze. Three months that seemed like eternity. Restricted and desolate. A cool wind from Oslo, Norway crept into Apt. 3313 in the heart of downtown Toronto. I think I was trimming my beard at the time. The only radio station I listen to played this stirring ballad. Then a halt. The splendor of it seemed to have slightly charged this lethargic body of mine. I might have seen an end in sight. And I’ve been listening to it ever since. It’s the solitary white scenery infused with a rich hearty reverberation that makes this glorious song my favorite of the year.

[get]

Happy Holidays.

Minor Tremors

Image found here

Tori Amos • Precious Things

12 years old and infamous orange curtains at my uncle’s house in Israel always caused a Pavlovian dog-like reaction. Running past fields of sunflowers to the corner of a place that was shelter. The draping represented music. A ceremony where massive earphones would lock out sounds from everything external. And a rebel 16 year old cousin was my first ever music guru. Names like Sinead O’connor and PJ Harvey and Peter Gabriel and Tom Waits and Neil Young and Jeff Buckley. Thrown in the air for me to catch. But most of all Little Earthquakes. The debut of Tori Amos. An album that celebrates its 20-year-old release today. So complete. 7300 days gone by. The first chilling snow-covered day on the other side of the world. Much has transpired. Nothing has changed. And I’m that kid all over again.

[get]

Songs 2011

The list. 20 songs that enhanced my life. Different from last year, here we have mostly short thoughts rather than stories and anecdotes. A playlist of the past 365 days. My soundtrack of 2011.

~~~

20 • Beirut • Goshen

We begin with a glorious piano and Zach Condon’s long-lost voice singing about loss and a price paid.  Then trumpets and drums and the familiar Beirut-sounding orchestra come to life. It’s an illusion where darkness seems to be light.

~~~

19 • Destroyer • Poor In Love

To know that someone ruminates like me. A proper dose of cynicism. Abundantly optimistic with a dash of sarcasm.   Composing luminescence. What we have here is a modern-day David Bowie.

~~~

18 • Twin Shadow • Changes

Forget flew right by me last year. So a major discovery in 2011. This masterfully produced gem, off an album due next year is quite spectacular. And Twin Shadow always make me think of The Smiths, so I can’t resist.

~~~

17 • St. Vincent • Champagne Year

Annie Clark cuts and soars. She plays her electric guitar and obliterates me. Composes rock anthems. Then softens like in this. Comes up with “I’ll make a living telling people what they want to hear. It’s not a killing, but it’s enough to keep the cobwebs clear”. I can’t not be on board. That’s me.

~~~

16 • Wye Oak • Civilian

This is cheating. A romance with this raging masterpiece started late last year. Back then it was loved. Now I am in awe of it. Off a staggering album released this year, it hijacks my itunes again and again.

~~~

15 • Lindsey Buckingham • Seeds We Sow

Almost 35 years late, I finally fall deeply in love with Fleetwood Mac. You know that feeling when anything Stevie Nicks or Christine McVie sing seems to be the truth? Then this. Lindsay Buckingham still has that power over me and proves it might never be too late for life.

~~~

14 • Lykke Li • Sadness Is A Blessing

Obligatory Swedish kitsch. Pop like no other. What is in that Scandinavian air? The music video for this should have been the trailer for Melancholia.

~~~

13 • Cut Copy • Need You Now

A tug and a pull. Deranged solitary beings in need of solace and an infectious build. At 4:43 it becomes a dance party of one.

~~~

12 • Zola Jesus • Collapse

A slow cry masked by saturated fog and ash. It should be heard and felt. From the bottom of the earth, a raw and dark bellow. It leaves me numb. Zola Jesus appears on this list once more.

~~~

11 • James Blake • A Case Of You

I don’t know what more I could ask for. James Blake captured my heart before. Here he covers the greatest Joni Mitchell song. Repaints a masterpiece and casts a three-minute spell.

~~~

10 • PJ Harvey • On Battleship Hill

The most acclaimed album of the year is complicated. Uneasily, I play Let England Shake in repeat. And endure it and it sinks in and Polly Jean’s story penetrates. The reward slowly uncovered. This is eerie and blue. And when the piano creeps in at 2:17 everything subsides. It’s beauteous.

~~~

9 • The Rapture • How Deep Is Your Love?

A lesson in how to create the perfect hit. Ask a question and simultaneously pummel with multiple exclamation marks.

~~~

8 • Alexander • Truth

These are the sounds I wish I could create in my living room all alone. Fortunately, Alexander Ebert did exactly that. In a year with no new material from Edward Sharpe, I’m thankful for this gospel.

~~~

7 • tUnE-yArDs • Bizness

Merrill Garbus is a marvel. She creates the most twisted and original magic. A whirlwind, a phantasmagorical roller coaster. This is the future of sound.

~~~

6 • Fleet Foxes • Helplessness Blues

Two songs in one. At times I think this desperately calls for a beat. But then the wondrous harmonies radiate. Make me wish these were the 70s. And the lyric “If I had an orchard, I’d work till I’m sore” allows me to dream.

~~~

5 • Niki & The Dove • Gentle Roar (Mylo Remix)

From Sweden (but of course) Niki & The Dove are the most exciting new reverberation this year. Rarely do I clock remixes in my life. But this re-work of a Knife-esque tune is hands down the favorite. The mumble-jumble of sound at 3:41 is a craze. So I need to book a flight to Stockholm ASAP.

~~~

4 • M83 (feat. Zola Jesus) • Intro

The epic soundtrack to that road-trip script I’ve been meaning to write. Anthony Gonzalez and Zola Jesus devise flashing images, fleeting moments, great highs, lowest of lows. In double time, fast forwarded and then rewound to a sweet slow motion. A choir of voices elevates it all and everything around becomes bigger than life.

~~~

3 • Austra • Lose It

Pop-opera. Popera. Katie Stelmais of Toronto reinvents the wheel. With her classically trained voice she generates an anthem. At 3:13 a turn into a darker territory. A haunting path that begs for abandoned dancing and repetition.

~~~

2 • Lana Del Rey • Video Games

Fixation. Obsession. Call it what you will. It’s current and honest. It’s the smoky voice and the anomaly that is LDR. And I don’t mind if she’s a puppet in a well-oiled machine. It’s a perfectly constructed ballad. It’s the questions asked and the answers not given. It’s simple and so very good. It’s one of my most played tracks this year.  And this is incredible too.

~~~

1 • Bon Iver • Perth

Euphoria at Massey Hall on December 7. Without a doubt, the best opening of a live show I’ve ever experienced. This song. A guitar, like a ray of light, creates the drone note from 0:08 throughout glorious twists and turns and the layers added. I should have chosen Holocene. But couldn’t after that concert. Justin Vernon delivers a sophomore album that took me a while to fall in love with, but when I did, it became the soundtrack of a year gone by. And so I glaze over 2011. It was not magnificent. Yet, that moment. Where chills crept down my spine. Goosebumps throughout my body. I realized I was listening to my favorite song of the year. “Still alive for you” he sings. While I look ahead to a better horizon.

Heavenly Creatures

Peter Gabriel • Blood Of Eden

In the middle of the night gusting winds and rain outside and a dream about falling do not let me sleep. Not being able to collapse back into a soothing coma I prop open a window and inhale nicotine mixed with cool air from a violent breeze hovering over the uncanny streets of Toronto.
Then, lying on the hardwood floor staring blankly at the ceiling. Yearning for a sound to slice the petrifying silence and bring life to my idle body. The chosen soundtrack is full of rich orchestral strings and heavenly creatures serenading. It’s wondrous how my ruminations have been pondered and written and sang before. A calm slowly trickles through each muscle and limb. I scrape myself off the ground and ascend into a desolate haze in which I write this and then plummet again.

[get]

Lifeline

Lindsey Buckingham • Seeds We Sow

Hark! An acoustic guitar speaks to me. It tells me I’m still alive. It takes the lead, it’s a melodic lifeline.  It’s constant and vibrant and even when it fades out it comes back for more. As if to say “I’m here and so are you. And if you think it’s over and done with, it’s not”. So I carry on.
I often wonder what I’ll see in my last seconds of breath. What fleeting images will pass by. Milky light before the black. Dark shadows on concrete sidewalks. Maybe a single, defining moment of life. That time I accomplished that thing and felt like a success. Or a road trip, pictures through car windows, like bridges or endless fields of red anemones lost in green because of my color blindness. Or just my deceased grandparents, back in their small town in Israel, under a legendary avocado tree.  It might just be me sitting in front of a screen typing words about the future and the grand finale. Smoking a cigarette and thinking that right now I’m just fine.

[get]